A Tremont family and community at large mourns the loss of a son who died Dec. 6 in an aircraft collision off the coast of Japan.
Marine Cpl. Daniel E. Baker, 21, was aboard a KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft when it collided with an F/A Hornet fighter jet south of Shikoku Island.
Four others were with Baker; Lt. Col. Kevin R. Herrman, Maj. James M. Brophy, Staff Sgt. Maximo A. Flores and Cpl. Carter Ross. Of the two men aboard the fighter jet, Cpt. Jahmar Resilard died and another unidentified man sustained minor injuries.
The crash occurred at around 5 p.m. in Japan, 2 a.m. locally.
Marine officials are investigating the cause of the crash. In a statement Dec. 11, the Marines said they had not determined whether the two aircraft were in the refueling process when the planes collided.
The KC-130 is a four-propeller tanker aircraft with a 3,900 gallon removable tank.
American, Australian and Japanese forces searched a 35,000-square nautical patch of the Pacific Ocean, a search that was called off Dec. 11. No bodies were recovered, except that of Cpt. Resilard, who was recovered the day of the accident.
Baker and his comrades were considered missing and declared dead, and the victims were publicly identified Dec. 12.
Baker was stationed 6,000 miles from home in Iwakuni, Japan, assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, the “Sumos.”
Since news of Baker’s death became known, his family has communicated with the media through a life-long family friend, Matt Miller.
“Daniel had a strong faith in God, and his family is being supported and encouraged by that same shared faith,” the Baker family said in a statement share by Miller. “Please pray for all of the service members and families involved in this accident.”
Baker made several calls home the day before the accident, his family said, calls that were a bit more involved than ordinary calls home.
“Most of the conversations were long and detailed. The family and friends consider this communication from Daniel, a day before the accident, a gift from God,” Miller said in a statement. “Daniel was quiet and, while he called home occasionally, this was a more in-depth communication that the normal phone call.”
Stories from his family and friends, shared by the Bakers, describe Daniel as a quiet, compassionate person who willingly offered friendship, hosted church youth group parties and offered an ear to those who needed to talk.
“In a quiet way, he touched the lives of many,” one person said.
Jeff Hinman, superintendent of Tremont School District #702, said Baker visited the school when he was home recently, and spoke with him about his experiences in the Marine Corps. Baker, he said, was articulate in conversation and carried himself with poise.
“It’s been a difficult couple of days here,” Hinman said. “This is an extremely tight-knit community and our residents support these kids in an unbelievable fashion. So, they watched him grow up.”
Baker graduated from Tremont High School in 2015, and his younger sister is a now student there. Twice since Baker’s death, the school has paused for moments of silence before home basketball games to honor him.
Baker joined the Marine Corps in 2016 and his decorations included the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
“He wanted to see the world and felt called to serve his country in the Marines,” his parents wrote. “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.”
Visitation and memorial services will be held at the Baker’s church, Northfield Christian Fellowship, 411 W. North St. in Tremont. Visitation will be Friday, Dec. 21 from 3 – 8 p.m. Memorial services will be held Saturday, Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. the following day. Park and ride services will be available from Tremont High School to the church from 3 – 9 p.m. Friday and 9 – 10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday.