An air tanker has crashed while fighting wildfire in Australia, killing the three people on board. Officials lost contact with the C-130 Hercules shortly before 13:30 local time on Thursday.
The reason of the accident in the snowy mountains in New South Wales is unclear. The victims were American citizens.
As much as 80 fires are blazing on all parts of the state after hot and windy conditions recurred. The air tanker crashed in an active fire zone two hours south of Australia’s Canberra, stated the NSW Rural Fire Service.
"The field reports are that the plane came down, it's crashed and there was a large fireball associated with that crash," said Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
The last available flight data displayed the air tanker, which is owned by a Canadian company near Cooma. The three crew member have not been identified.
Heartbreaking & devastating news that three US residents who were crew members operating a LAT in the Snowy Mountains region have lost their lives. Our thoughts & heartfelt condolences are with their families & the tight knit firefighting community. pic.twitter.com/fQ5gphfm6A— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) January 23, 2020
Deeply saddened to learn of the death of 3 people in the crash of a C130 fire fighting aircraft, north east of Cooma in NSW earlier today. My deepest condolences to the loved ones, friends and colleagues of those who have lost their lives. Such a terrible tragedy.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 23, 2020
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have expressed condolences for the firefighters’ family.
"Today, again demonstrates the fire season is far from over," Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday. Fires in southern Australia are anticipated to reach the zenith in February and continue into April.
Mr Fitzsimmons said the experienced and "well known" crew had been contracted to Australia to fight the bushfires.
"Our hearts are with all those that are suffering what is the loss of three remarkable, well respected crew that have invested so many decades of their life into firefighting," he said.
The Hercules C-130 water-bombing aircraft had been leased from Coulson Aviation as part of a seasonal arrangement with state fire authorities. All big air tanker operations had been shut out for rhe rest of the day pending probe into the crash, Mr Fitzsimmons stated.
"It was operating as it routinely does with water bombing activities...there is no indication at this stage of what's caused the accident."
Since September, Australia has fought a bushfire crisis which has now killed at least 33 people. More than 10 million hectares have been destroyed in blazes. The most affected states have been NSW and Victoria.