Family and friends in Jacksonville are mourning the loss of a Marine from the area who died Monday along with 15 others when a military transport plane crashed in the Mississippi Delta after developing problems at cruising altitude, according to military officials.

Joe Murray’s father, Terry Murray, said Wednesday that the family is trying to reach out to his son’s widow before commenting on the situation because they want to respect her wishes in this emotional time. He said Gayle Murray’s parents are with her in North Carolina to help with the grieving process.

Joe Murray went to high school in Jacksonville and still has various family members and in-laws in the area, his father said.

Joe's father spoke today about his son:

The crash of the KC-130 killed nine Marines from Newburgh, N.Y., and six Marines and a Navy Corpsman from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James told reporters Wednesday in Itta Bena, Mississippi, according to the Florida-Times Union.

“Indications are something went wrong at cruise altitude,” Bradley said. That squares with comments from witnesses interviewed by The Associated Press who said they saw the plane descend from high altitude with an engine smoking.

According to Department of Defense policy, the names of the deceased will not be released until 24 hours after each one person’s family has been notified.

But friends and family in Jacksonville have been sharing their condolences and heartache on social media throughout the week.

“I haven’t been able to find the words. And I still can’t seem to find them. My dear friend Gayle’s husband was one of the 16 military men who lost his life in the plane crash,” said Ana Gabriela Ellis in a Facebook post. “Lives taken from this earth far too soon.

Joe was an amazing husband and father who loved his wife and children fiercely. He was an amazing Marine whose sacrifice will never be forgotten. I’ve never met a couple who were more in love than Joe and Gayle.”

James said that there is a “large debris pattern,” including two main impact areas separated by a mile, with a four-lane highway in between them.

Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher repeated earlier warnings that people in the crash area shouldn’t pick up any debris, which could include weapons, ammunition and evidence valuable to determining why the plane crashed.

“None of that stuff should be touched,” Fisher said. “Removal of anything from the area could be subject to criminal prosecution.”

Fisher, who also spoke at the news conference, said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as federal prosecutors in northern Mississippi, are investigating reports that someone removed debris. State law enforcement agencies are guarding the area, but the broad area and number of roads makes it difficult to control access.

Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks said the debris is spread across 2 to 3 miles (3 to 5 kilometers) of farmland. He estimated Wednesday it will take investigators five or six days to sift through the wreckage and clean up the site where the plane crashed on Monday.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and were headed for pre-deployment training in Yuma, Arizona, the Marine Corps said Tuesday.

Several bouquets were left Tuesday at the main gate of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, where the plane was based. Stewart was closed to reporters and did not issue a statement.

The KC-130 is used to refuel aircraft in flight and transport cargo and troops.

The Marines said the plane was carrying personal weapons and small-arms ammunition — equipment that may have contributed to the explosion and the popping that could be heard as the wreckage burned.

The religious community in Jacksonville, also mourns his loss:

Donations for Murray's family can be sent to: Atlantic Beach Assembly of God, 680 Mayport Rd., Atlantic Beach, FL, 32233.