The community of Colts Neck is mourning the death of a U.S. Marine from the township who was among 15 Marines and one Navy sailor who died when a military plane crashed in Mississippi on the afternoon of July 10.
Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare, 20, graduated from Colts Neck High School in 2015. He was active in youth football and later went on to play for the Cougars’ gridiron team.
Baldassare was on board the KC-130 air tanker that crashed in a soybean field in Itta Bena, 85 miles north of Jackson, the state capital. The plane is used to refuel aircraft in flight and to transport cargo and troops.
Authorities have not determined what caused the plane to crash. A spokesman for the Marines said the aircraft was flying from North Carolina to Arizona.
Baldassare’s unit was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, N.Y.
During the July 12 meeting of the Colts Neck Township Committee, Mayor Russell Macnow spoke about the tragedy that claimed the life of a young resident of the community.
“We are a small town of about 10,000 people and unfortunately we have lost one of our own,” Macnow said. “We are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic passing of our resident, 2015 Colts Neck High School graduate and United States Marine Dan Baldassare. We remain available to assist the family in any way possible.”
A moment of silence was observed for Baldassare and the other service members who perished in the flight.
Macnow said that after consulting with officers at Naval Weapons Station Earle, which is in Colts Neck, he directed all flags in the municipality to be flown at half-staff until further notice.
Dan Simon was the principal at Colts Neck High School when Baldassare was a student there.
“I was saddened and heartbroken to learn the news of Dan’s passing,” Simon said. “He was taken from us much too soon, but he will always be remembered for the great student and citizen he was, and with the utmost appreciation for his service to our country.
“It is a sobering reminder of the sacrifice the brave men and women of the military make for our freedom every day. My prayers are with the Baldassare family during this extremely difficult time,” he said.