Sydney: Australian authorities on Friday revealed the identities of the three US firefighters who died when their air tanker crashed while battling blazes in New South Wales (NSW) state.
Captain Ian McBeth, 45, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 43, and flight engineer Rick A DeMorgan Jr, 44, were killed, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, while calling the deaths an “unbelievable loss” and offered a state memorial, reports the BBC.
Fitzsimmons said the experienced and “well known” crew had been contracted to Australia to help fight the unprecedented bushfires.
The state government ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on Friday, in tribute to the three men.
Officials lost contact with the C-130 Hercules plane, owned by Canadian firefighting company Coulson Aviation, shortly before 1.30 p.m., on Thursday.
It crashed in an active fire zone in the Snowy Mountains, south of Canberra, said the NSW Rural Fire Service.
The cause of the crash is yet to be determined.
In another fire-hit state, Victoria, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) tweeted its thanks to US firefighters who had just arrived on deployment, said the BBC report.
Since September 2019, Australia has battled a bushfire crisis which has now killed at least 33 people. More than 70 bushfires were still raging across NSW alone.
Fires in southern Australia are expected to peak in February and continue into April.