Three firefighter dead after Large Air Tanker crashes while fighting bushfires in southern NSW

Three American firefighters died when a Large Air Tanker crashed while fighting a bushfire in southern NSW. Earlier this afternoon, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said it had “lost contact” with a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, used in water bombing operations, in the Snowy Monaro area. Firefighters, emergency services and military personnel launched a search and rescue and located the wreckage. However, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said all the crew members were “tragically” killed. “[The aircraft] impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground,” he said. Commissioner Fitzsimmons said there was no indication on what caused the accident, but is working with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to determine what happened. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was contracted through American aerial firefighting company, Coulson Aviation (USA). The company has grounded their Large Air Tankers fleet as a precaution and as “a mark of respect”. The grounding of the water bombers by Coulson Aviation will have an immediate impact on aerial firefighting capacity, Mr Fitzsimmons said, but he understands their decision. “It’s absolutely warranted and I support them 100 per cent,” he said. “They are very mindful of the emotional and psychological effect that such a tragedy will have on the rest of their workforce not just here in Australia but in North America or Canada.” The Commissioner said all three occupants on the plane were American firefighters — he extended his deepest sympathies to their families. “Our hearts are with all those that are suffering in what is the loss of three remarkable, well respected, crew that have invested so many decades of their life into firefighting.” The RFS said the aircraft was engaged in “routine” waterbombing activities at the time of the crash. Flight tracking website Flightradar24 showed the flight path for the C-130 suddenly stopping south of Canberra. According to its flight data, the aircraft departed RAAF Base Richmond, in western Sydney, about 12:15pm. However, just after 2pm the aircraft stopped in an area called Peak View, just north-east of Cooma. Another live flight data website, ADSB Exchange, also showed aircraft owned by the RAAF circling the area near the town of Bredbo

Tributes flow amid ‘enormous tragedy’

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian expressed her gratitude to the victims for putting the lives and properties of others before their own safety. “Today demonstrates the fire season is far from over,” she said. “Today is a reminder of how every single person who is defending life and property is at risk.” The crash occurred amidst an emergency blaze burning towards Adaminaby, in the Snowy Monaro region, which has since been downgraded. A massive grass fire also forced Canberra Airport to cancel all incoming and outgoing flights. Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud described the crash as an “enormous tragedy” which will rock the firefighting community. “[We] stand shoulder to shoulder with the NSW Government in making sure that all efforts are undertaken, not only in making sure that the fires are extinguished, but also those lives that have been lost are recovered and repatriated as quickly as possible,” he said. “The Australian Government and the Australian people feel that tragedy and that grief with them and their families, as they go through this grief and this mourning. “And we will make sure that whatever needs to be done is done.” Coulson Aviation said it would be sending a team to Australia as soon as possible. (Sources: abc news)


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