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7 Americans die in Afghan plane crash

– The friend of one of seven Americans killed in a cargo plane crash near an Air Force base in Afghanistan described him as an experienced navigator who performed well under pressure.

First officer Jamie Brokaw, of Monroe, was among six people from Michigan killed Monday, along with one person from Kentucky.

“He was a very good person and very smart person,” Chris Connerton said Tuesday by telephone from Rochester, Minn.

Connerton credited Brokaw with helping get him through flight school, as well as a harrowing flight two years ago from Toledo to an international flight expo in Lakeland, Fla. Connerton said ice had built up on the plane to the point that he could no longer get it to climb.

“If it wasn’t for Jamie’s navigation and know-how ... we wouldn’t have made it,” Connerton said. “I don’t know that I would have had the capacity to handle the situation on my own.”

Also killed in Monday’s crash were pilots Brad Hasler of Trenton, Mich. and Jeremy Lipka of Brooklyn, Mich.; First Officer Rinku Summan of Canton, Mich.; loadmaster Michael Sheets of Ypsilanti, Mich.; and maintenance crew Gary Stockdale of Romulus, Mich., and Timothy Garrett of Louisville, Ky.

As loadmaster, Sheets was responsible for making sure the weight and balance of the cargo was appropriate.

The Dubai-bound Boeing 747-400 was operated by National Air Cargo and crashed just after takeoff Monday from Bagram Air Base about 11:20 a.m. local time, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

The crash site is within the perimeter of Bagram Air Base.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but NATO said later the claims were false, and there was no sign of insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash.

The Afghanistan Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Aviation is leading the investigation. The NTSB is investigating the crash alongside the ministry. The team will be composed of three NTSB investigators, as well as representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.

National Air Cargo Vice President Shirley Kaufman said the plane – owned by National Airlines, an Orlando, Florida-based subsidiary of National Air Cargo – was carrying vehicles and other cargo.

National Airlines was based until recently at Michigan’s Willow Run Airport, west of Detroit.

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