May 5, 2013 Updated: May 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm
Two Colorado Springs airmen - both 2008 Air Force Academy graduates - died in a Kyrgyzstan crash, the Defense Department confirmed Sunday.
Capt. Mark T. 'Tyler ' Voss, 27, Capt. Victoria 'Tori ' A. Pinckney, 27, both from Colorado Springs, were two of three airmen killed May 3 when a KC-135 refueling plane went down outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Also killed was Tech. Sgt. Herman 'Tre ' Mackey III, 27, of Bakersfield, Calif.
'All three of these patriots were members of our proud 93d Air Refueling Squadron, ' the Air Force said on Facebook. 'These brave Airmen leave behind an incredible legacy and show what we all know, that freedom is never free. '
They were assigned to the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash.
Voss, a native of Boerne, Texas, graduated from the Air Force Academy with an engineering degree, the Air Force Academy said. He is survived by his parents, Wayne and Marcy Voss, from Boerne, Texas.
Voss completed pilot training at He was promoted to captain in May 2012 and became an aircraft commander in March of this year.
Pinckney, a native of Palmdale, Calif., was shown in a photo released by Fairchild Air Force base holding her 7-month-old son Gabriel.
She played Rugby at the Air Force Academy before graduating in 2008.
She is survived by her husband, Richard Pinckney and their son Gabriel, of Spokane. Her parents, Larry and Michelle Castro from Colorado Springs, did not wish to comment on the loss of their daughter. Mackey graduated from Bakersfield High School in Bakersfield, Calif. He is survived by his wife, Megan Mackey and his daughter, Payton. Mackey was described by his wife as a friendly man who 'was always there to lend a hand to anyone who needed it, ' the Air Force said.
'We're a strong family here and it's truly heart wrenching when members of this family make the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, ' said their commander at Fairchild, Col. Brian Newberry. 'We will forever honor Tyler, Tori, and Tre as patriots and heroes. '
The Air Force said the refueling plane crashed shortly after takeoff. The Associated Press reported that the plane went down in rugged terrain about 100 miles from the airport.
Pictures from the crash scene show the airplane disintegrated and burned on impact.
Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, where the flight began, has been the hub for American air traffic into neighboring Afghanistan for more than a decade. Tankers like the KC-135 fly from the former Soviet republic to keep fighters and bombers fueled as they loiter over Afghanistan, ready to strike if needed.
The KC-135 is one of the oldest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, with most of the fleet delivered during the Eisenhower administration. The Air Force took delivery of its newest KC-135 in 1965.
It is a military version of the venerable Boeing 707.
With a string of upgrades and modifications, the Air Force has maintained a fleet of more than 400 of the refuelers, including 167 used by the active-duty force.
The Air Force has ordered new aircraft to replace the KC-135s. The KC-46 is a military version of the Boeing 767.