The Australian Transportation Safety Bureau has sent a team to New South Wales to investigate the site where a B.C.-owned air tanker crashed while trying to help fight wildfires.
Captain Ian H. McBeth of Great Falls, Montana, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Buckeye, Arizona and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. of Navarre, Florida were all killed in the crash.
The plane, owned by Coulson Aviation of Port Alberni, was loaded with fire retardant and headed to Peak View, near Cooma, NSW, to help fight one of several “emergency warning” fires that cropped up in the area. The area fire crews lost contact with the aircraft, and shortly after, a fireball was seen in the area.
Investigators will analyze recorded data, review weather information and interview any witnesses.
Coulson Aviation has sent a response team as well to assist, and has grounded its fleet of tankers until the investigation is done.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of everyone involved in this incident,” Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson said in a news release on Thursday. “On behalf of all British Columbians, I extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the flight crew and to the staff of Coulson Aviation.”
Forty-five firefighters from B.C. are among the 172 Canadians deployed to Australia to help during a catastrophic wildfire season.
Coulson Aviation has had aircraft in Australia for a number of years, beginning with their Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, and has helped fight wildfires there for the past few years.