PEORIA — A 2015 Tremont High School graduate is among the five people who are missing after a mid-air collision by two U.S. Marine Corps’ aircraft off the coast of Japan early Thursday.
Family and friends of Daniel Baker, 21, have been hoping for the best and praying for the young man whom family and friends have described as a person who loved the “Lord, his family, his friends and his work.”
The Tremont man and others went missing at about 2 a.m. Thursday when a F/A-18 Super Hornet and a KC-130J Hercules collided during training roughly 55 nautical miles southeast of Cape Muroto in the Kochi Prefecture of Japan. Seven crew members — two in the fighter and five in the aerial tanker — were initially missing. Two have been recovered. One of them, Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, 28, of Miramar, Fla., died. The five crew members of the KC-130 remain missing.
He’s officially listed as “Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown,” or DUSTWUN in the military parlance. It means Baker’s missing from duty due to involuntary reasons. Members of the Japanese Navy as well as Marines and Navy personnel have been scouring the ocean about 200 miles off the coast for any sign of survivors. A Marines Corps spokesman said Friday night that “search and rescue efforts will continue through the weekend.”
Baker was assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, which files the KC-130J, a plane similar to the C-130H3 flown by the Illinois Air National Guard’s 182nd Airlift Wing, which is based in Peoria. The KC-130 is the Marine Corps’ primary fixed wing aerial tanker that is used to provide in-flight refueling to aircraft such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet and helicopters likes the CH-53E Super Stallion.
Known as the Sumos, the 152nd is stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan.
Aerial refueling is a difficult task as the tanker, such as the KC-130, lowers a boom — a long tube — and the plane that seeks to get fuel must connect to it. It’s a timing issue for planes such as the Hornet, which can fly much faster than the propeller driven Hercules.
His family described Baker as a man of all things. He was never one to seek out attention but he was always there for others.
In a statement sent to the (Peoria) Journal Star by the family, they recounted stories from family and friends. All centered around one thing — Baker’s heart and his compassion for others.
“He wanted to make sure Tremont foreign exchange students felt welcome and usually befriended them, often offering to give them rides to school and activities. After a while some teased him a little about all his foreign girlfriends. But it was never about having a romantic relationship, but rather being a friend to someone in a new culture,” wrote one person who did not give his name.
Another person, a friend from the Marine Corps recounted this about his friend:
“Getting to know him Baker was a kind, soft-spoken guy, who had a drive for adventure. He would lend a hand to anyone; even if they never asked for it, and could carry out a conversation with someone he just met. We were both saddened when we parted ways, but we continued on our own adventures just in separate directions. He continued his in Iwakuni, Japan, and always kept me informed on the places he traveled and the projects he was working on. He excelled at being a KC-130J Crewmaster and loved what he did. He drove himself to know all he could about the aircraft and become the best he could at his job. I looked up to him as a friend, and he even drove me countless times to become not only a better Crewmaster but also just as a better person,” the Marine said of his friend.
The family, in a group statement, said Baker wasn’t without flaws but he loved being a Marine and he loved his job and the notion of serving his country.
“Though he was a near straight-A student and easily could have followed a number of his friends to college to study engineering (what seemed a logical choice to his parents) he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to see the world and felt called to serve his country in the Marines. He wanted to do his part and join the ranks of some of the toughest, most committed men and women in the world, and we are so proud of him for it, even though we feared a week like this one might come,” he said.