Australia fires: US crew killed in air tanker crash identified

Australia fires: US crew killed in air tanker crash identified

Three US firefighters who died when their air tanker crashed while battling blazes in Australia have been identified.

Captain Ian McBeth, 45, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 43, and flight engineer Rick A DeMorgan Jr, 44, were killed in New South Wales on Thursday.

The cause of the C-130 Hercules crash is not yet known.

New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian called it an “unbelievable loss” and offered a state memorial.

Officials lost contact with the plane, owned by Canadian firefighting company Coulson Aviation, shortly before 13:30 local time (02:30 GMT).

It crashed in an active fire zone in the Snowy Mountains, south of Canberra, said the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Since September, Australia has battled a bushfire crisis which has now killed at least 33 people. More than 70 bushfires are still raging across NSW alone.

Who were the victims?

Mr Fitzsimmons said the experienced and “well known” crew had been contracted to Australia to help fight the unprecedented bushfires this season.

Mr McBeth, from Great Falls in Montana, was a “highly qualified and respected C-130 pilot with many years of fighting fire” in the military and privately, Coulson Aviation said.

His love for his wife Bowdie and children Abigail, Calvin and Ella was “evident for anyone who spent time around him”, it added.

Mr Hudson, from Buckeye in Arizona, had previously served for two decades in the US Marine Corps, including as a C-130 pilot. He is survived by his wife, Noreen.

Mr DeMorgan Jr, from Navarre in Florida, had spent 18 years in the US Air Force as a C-130 flight engineer.

His passions had been “always flying and his children” Lucas and Logan, Coulson Aviation said.