Martin Gonzales, a member of the U.S. Air Force working under the control of U.S. Southern Command in Doral, is presumed dead after a mission in Latin America — and his family soon could be impacted when it comes to his death benefits. NBC 6's Willard Shepard reports.
Officials on Wednesday confirmed that a U.S. Airman from South Florida was killed in a plane crash Saturday in Colombia.
Air Force Master Sgt. Martin Gonzales, 39, along with two American defense contractors and a Panamanian National Air-Naval Service lieutenant, were killed when their DH-8 aircraft crashed near the Panamanian border while conducting detection and monitoring operations in support of Operation Martillo, U.S. Southern Command in Doral confirmed.
Two survivors were in stable condition after they were rescued from the crash site by Colombian military forces, officials said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Gonzales left behind his wife, Michelle, a teacher at Spanish Lake Elementary, and two young children.
"The loss and pain of losing my husband, MSgt Martin Gonzales is indescribable. He passed away very tragically while proudly serving for the US Air Force," Michelle Gonzales said in a statement Wednesday. "He loved his job and was willing to risk his own life for others."
His family may soon be impacted by the government shutdown, as they may not receive the death benefits that are extended by the Department of Defense when a family member performing military service dies.
On Tuesday the Department of Defense told NBC 6 that due to the shutdown the following are on hold for military families: the $100,000 death gratuity benefit that is usually sent automatically; other burial benefits; and travel funds to reach a loved one’s body once it is flown to the U.S.
Southcom said that life insurance for the families of service members will go through without delay.
At a news conference Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama expects a solution to family members of fallen soldiers being denied death benefits sometime Wednesday.