Three American firefighters died when their waterbomber crashed while helping battle Australia’s bushfire’s in NSW.
The C-130 Hercules exploded into a huge fireball on impact near Peak View, northeast of Cooma, NSW, after losing contact with the ground about 1.30 pm.
Rescue crews rushed to the crash site on Thursday afternoon but found no survivors among the wreckage. The bodies have not yet been recovered.
The waterbomber was helping to fight a massive 250,000ha mega blaze formed when at least four different fires joined together.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there was not yet any indication as to what caused the crash.
‘Tragically, there appear to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area,’ he said.
‘[The aircraft] impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground.’
A radio call minutes after the crash relayed the grim scene to RFS command centres, describing a ‘ball of flames’.
‘Fire comms… message red speaks to your captain. The message is read. Crashed,’ the call began.
The RFS command responded: ‘Yeah fire comms… It’s just a ball of flames… over.
The firefighters were on a plane chartered by American firefighting company Coulson Aviation that was in Australia to help tackle the bushfire crisis.
Coulsons grounded it large air tankers after the crash, both as a standard precaution and a sign of respect for the casualties.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the three victims were experienced firefighters who routinely crewed the C-130 for waterbombing missions.
‘It is a confronting and sobering reminder of the inherent risks associated with firefighting and we’ve seen all too often this season,’ he said.
‘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.’