23 January 2020, Thursday 11:34:10

Plane crashed while fighting a bushfire

Three US crew members were killed when their Large Air Tanker crashed while fighting a bushfire in southern NSW this afternoon.

Three US crew members were killed when their Large Air Tanker crashed while fighting a bushfire in southern NSW this afternoon.

Earlier this afternoon, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said it had "lost contact" with a Lockheed C-130 Hercules being used in water bombing operations in the Snowy Monaro area.

Firefighters, emergency services and military personnel launched a search and rescue operation 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 the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was working to determine what happened.

The C-130 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, Commissioner Fitzsimmons said, but he said he said he understood 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."

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said all three occupants on the plane were American firefighters, and 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," he said.
The RFS said the aircraft was engaged in "routine" water bombing activities at the time of the crash.

Plane crashed while fighting a bushfire

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