SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Update:
The three American crew members who died in tanker crash Thursday while fighting wildfires in Australia have been identified.
Captain Ian McBeth, 44, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr., 43, died while helping fight wildfires in New South Wales' Snowy Monaro region.
McBeth lived in Great Falls, Montana; Hudson lived in Pheonix, Arizona; and DeMorgan lived in Navarre, Florida.
The tragedy brings the death toll from the blazes to at least 31 since September 2019.
The three were helping fight wildfires in Australia when the C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker crashed. The New South Wales premier confirmed the crash deaths in the state's Snowy Monaro region as Australia attempts to deal with an unprecedented fire season that has left a large swath of destruction.
“Jennifer and I are heartbroken to learn of the air tanker crash in Australia that claimed the lives of three heroic American firefighters," Gov. Newsom said. "We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the crew, their friends and loved ones, and our own CAL FIRE family who worked, fought fires, and trained with the crew of Tanker 134."
Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said the department stands with those most affected by the losses.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues of the crew from Tanker 134 that were lost during a tragic crash while battling the devastating Australia fires," Porter said.
Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott Mclean said the aircraft itself had multiple ties to Northern California.
“That particular air craft did fly on several major wild fires throughout the state over the last few years,” Mclean said.
The aircraft involved in the crash was the same one seen at McClellan Air Force Base during an event Gov. Newsom hosted with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger August 1, 2019, to highlight the state’s new firefighting equipment, according to the Governor's Office.This C-130 was used as a training platform in 2019 for future pilots of the Cal Fire C-130 program, and was instrumental in 2019 as part of the aviation resources used to battle the devastating wildfires across California, including the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, which was the largest wildfire in the state last year.
"This tragic accident reminds us all of the too-high cost of the scourge of wildfires, as well as the sacrifice of first responders from around the world. California and Australia, already united by the deadly threat of wildfires, now grieve this tragic loss together,” Newsom said in the release.
The tragedy brings the death toll from the blazes to at least 31 since September 2019. Coulson grounded other firefighting aircraft as a precaution pending investigation.
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