Authorities recover the bodies of three American firefighters killed in Australia plane crash
Australian authorities have recovered the bodies of three American firefighters who were killed in a plane crash while helping battle wildfires in the country, New South Wales Police said in a statement.
Investigators on Saturday also retrieved the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and are analyzing data to determine what caused the crash, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.
The firefighters were killed when their C-130 plane collided with terrain near the town of Cooma, Australia, on Thursday, the bureau said.
The water-bombing tanker had been chartered by the NSW Rural Fire Service, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a news conference last week. It was called in to fight a bushfire near Cooma.
The three victims were identified by their employer, Oregon-based Coulson Aviation, as Capt. Ian McBeth, 44, of Great Falls, Montana, who was piloting the plane; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Buckeye, Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr., 43, who lived in Navarre, Florida.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of McBeth, CNN affiliate WDAF reported.
“Ian was a devoted father and husband, a brave first responder, and a selfless service member who made the ultimate sacrifice helping the people of Australia combat the catastrophic fires devastating their country,” the governor said in a statement, according to the news station. “Our service members and their families already sacrifice so much, and Ian took his call of duty even further to help those in need across the world.”
On Sunday, the NSW Rural Fire Service said it was “brilliant” seeing Coulson Aviation aircraft back up today after “what has been a tragic week.”
“Both 737 Large Air Trackers have flown three missions today on fires burning in the states south. Once again providing valuable assistance to crews,” it said on Twitter.