Story at a glance

  • Three U.S. firefighters died in a plane crash while deploying flame retardant in southeastern Australia.
  • All three men have been identified as veterans with prior flight experience.
  • Government officials and aviation leaders give their condolences as the investigation into the crash is still underway.

The three U.S. firefighters who died helping Australia battle its fierce bushfires have been identified as veterans, according to an NBC report.

The three men were named as Capt. Ian H. McBeth of Great Falls, Mon.; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Buckeye, Ariz.; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. of Navarre, Fla, per the article

All three firefighters died after the plane, which was distributing flame retardant to help quell the flames, in went down. 

The model of the aircraft was a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The company who owned and leased the aircraft to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Coulson Aviation, has since grounded its fleet to undergo inspection in the wake of the fatal crash. 

Coulson Aviation issued a press release celebrating the fallen firefighters and offering condolences to the families. 

We as a company are committed to supporting the families of our fallen heroes through this tragedy. Our crews in Australia are fully supported by the RFS with their critical incident support personnel,” the press release said, “Our crews on the other aircraft will be returning to work in the very near future as they are dedicated to the job we are required to do. We must continue to work with emergency services to protect local communities.”

DeMorgan Jr. and McBeth, ages 43 and 44 respectively, both served in the U.S. Air Force. Hudson, 42, was a former Marine. All men had prior experience with aircraft engineering and flight operations. 

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement yesterday offering condolences from himself and his wife, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

“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,” he said. “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.”

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian ordered flags to be flown at half mast in the region to honor the three fallen men. 

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is investigating the crash, which occurred in the Snowy Monaro region. Ground troops and helicopters were initially deployed to execute searches of the crash site. 

More than 50 fires still rage along the southeastern coast of Australia, some of which are contained, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service interactive map

So far, at least three Australian firefighters and three U.S. firefighters have died, as have an estimated 1 billion animals. The bushfires have burned approximately 25.7 million acres of land and emitted more than 400 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.  

Published on Jan 24, 2020