Australia fires: US firefighters killed when plane crashed in ‘ball of flames’ pictured for first time – The SunJanuary 24, 2020
THE three Americans killed in a plane crash while fighting Australia’s devastating fires have been identified.
Captain Ian McBeth, First Officer Paul Hudson, and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr. died when the C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker they were on crashed in New South Wales, bringing the bush fires death toll to 32.
McBeth, 44, was a father-of-three from Montana.
Hudson had served 20 years in the Marine Corps, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, while DeMorgan was a father-of-two with more than 4,000 hours of experience.
All three were hailed as ‘remarkable’ men in a statement from Coulson Aviation – an American firefighting company helping tackle the fires.
'At Coulson Aviation, we have the incredible job of fighting fires around the world and we take pride in this responsibility,' the statement read.
'Right now, our hearts are with the crew's family and friends and our Coulson family suffering in the loss of these three remarkable and well-respected crew members.
'We must continue to work with emergency services to protect local communities. The aviation industry and emergency service sector is a small community both in Australia and around the world.
'We are incredibly moved by the outpouring and support from those in Australia and around the world. Thank you for recognizing the work that our crews do and for expressing your condolences and grief for the families of our fallen heroes.'
Haunting audio of the call was broadcast by Nine News.
"Fire comms…message red speak to your captain. Message this is red," a man could be heard saying.
The man says the word "crashed" before the audio cuts out briefly.
"Yeah fire comms…it's just a ball of flames. Over."
The RFS waterbomber plunged to the ground in the Snowy Monaro and emergency crews worked to get to the crash, which is surrounded by difficult terrain and "terrible visibility", ABC News reported.
It is unclear exactly what caused the crash, with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) set to investigate.
It is understood the huge air tanker was engaged in "routine" waterbombing activities on a blaze near Cooma, north-east of the Snowy Mountains when it crashed.
Scott Morrison, Australia's Prime Minister said he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the tragedy.
It comes as hundreds of fires have raged across the country over the past few months, leaving at least 28 people dead, destroying more than 2,000 homes and killing scores of animals.
But it will take 100 years for Australia to "get back to where we were before the fires", experts have warned.
More than 100 fires continue to burn in the east, but cooler conditions in recent days and forecast rain have aided firefighting efforts.
The wildfires are thought to have killed off a third of Australia's Koala population – whose numbers were already dangerously low before the flames.
Tens of thousands of livestock animals, mostly sheep have been killed, along with an estimated 30,000 koalas.
Heavy downpours are finally dousing the flames after months of devastation – but an approaching rain bomb could bring severe flooding and even supercell storms.
Disturbing maps released by Weatherzone show thunderstorms forming over the east coast of the country which has been battling hundreds of deadly blazes.
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