Three American crew members have died in Australia after an air tanker crashed in the state of New South Wales, where fires continue to burn out of control.
The water-bombing tanker had been chartered by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a news conference on Thursday.
It was called in to fight a bushfire near the town of Cooma, in the state’s southeast.
The Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council told CNN the casualties were American. The crew members belonged to Coulson Aviation, an aerial firefighting company that owned the aircraft contracted to the NSW RFS.
Coulson Aviation said in a statement that the crew had been on a firebombing mission when the accident occurred.
“Today is a stark and horrible reminder of the dangerous conditions that our volunteers, our emergency services personnel across the number of agencies take on a daily basis,” Berejiklian said. “It demonstrates the dangerous work currently being undertaken. It also demonstrates the conditions that our firefighters are working under.”
According to the NSW RFS commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, contact was lost with the C-130 water-bombing plane shortly before 1:30 p.m. local time on Thursday.
“Tragically, there appears to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area,” Fitzsimmons said in the news conference. “It’s impacted heavily with the ground. And initial reports are there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground.”