Quantcast

3 U.S. Firefighters Die in Plane Crash While Battling Australia Fires

Climate
People are seen embracing at Numeralla Rural Fire Brigade near the scene of a water tanker plane crash on Jan. 23 in Cooma, Australia. Three American firefighters have have died after their C-130 water tanker plane crashed while battling a bushfire near Cooma in southern NSW this afternoon. Jenny Evans / Getty Images

Three U.S. firefighters gave their lives battling Australia's historic wildfires Thursday when their airborne water tanker crashed.


The firefighters took off in a C-130 water tanker at 1 p.m. to fight a blaze near the Snowy Mountains in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The plane then disappeared from radar.

"It's just a ball of flames ... over," a nearby plane told flight control of the crash, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the plane disappeared from radar a little after 2 p.m., while Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said in a news conference that contact was lost with the plane before 1:30 p.m., USA Today reported.

Coulson Aviation, the Canadian company that operated the plane, identified the firefighters as 44-year-old Capt. Ian H. McBeth from Great Falls, Montana; 42-year-old First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson from Buckeye, Arizona; and 43-year-old Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan from Navarre, Florida.

McBeth, a former member of the Wyoming Air National Guard and an active member of the Montana Air National Guard, was also a husband and a father to three children.

DeMorgan was a father of two who served 18 years as an engineer on the C-130 in the U.S. Air Force.

Hudson was a veteran who had served for 20 years in the U.S. Marines, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring.

Their deaths bring the death toll of the Australian wildfires up to 32 overall since September, NPR reported. More than a dozen of those killed have been firefighters.

The devastating blazes have also burned an area larger than Pennsylvania, destroyed 2,500 homes and killed more than a billion animals. The climate crisis has made Australia's natural bushfires more dangerous and extreme, Australia's Climate Council has found.

"The fire season is still far from over and today we've seen, again, tragic consequences, where three people have lost their lives," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in the wake of the three firefighters' deaths, as NPR reported. "Our thoughts and prayers and heartfelt condolences go to their families."

Berejiklian said that flags would fly at half-mast Friday as a sign of respect.

Coulson has grounded the rest of its firefighting aircraft as a safety measure while it investigates the cause of the crash, which is still unknown, according to USA Today. This will reduce the air power available to the 1,700 firefighting volunteers and personnel still battling the flames.

There are currently five fires burning at the highest "emergency warning" level in NSW and near the Australian capital of Canberra.

The fire near Canberra has burned almost 1,000 square miles and is considered out of control, according to NPR.

The U.S. has sent more than 200 people to Australia to help fight the fires, CNN reported. It said Wednesday it would send another two 20-person crews.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne honored the U.S. firefighters who lost their lives.

"Our hearts go out to their loved ones. They were helping Australia, far from their own homes, an embodiment of the deep friendship between our two countries," she said in a statement reported by USA Today.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

We need our government to do everything it can to stop PFAS contamination and exposure from wreaking havoc in communities across the country. LuAnn Hun / Unsplash

By Genna Reed

The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

This decision is based on three criteria:

  1. PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
  2. PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
  3. regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
Read More
Charging EVs in Stockholm: But where does a dead battery go? Ranjithsiji / Wikimedia Commons

By Kieran Cooke

Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.

Read More
Sponsored
U.S. Secretary of the Treasure Steven Mnuchin arrives for a welcome dinner at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 22, 2020 during the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting. FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP via Getty Images

Finance ministers from the 20 largest economies agreed to add a scant mention of the climate crisis in its final communiqué in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but they stopped short of calling it a major economic risk, as Reuters reported. It was the first time the G20 has mentioned the climate crisis in its final communiqué since Donald Trump became president in 2017.

Read More
Aerial view of Parque da Cachoeira, which suffered the January 2019 dam collapse, in Brumadinho, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil — one of the country's worst industrial accidents that left 270 people dead. Millions of tons of toxic mining waste engulfed houses, farms and waterways, devastating the mineral-rich region. DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP / Getty Images

By Christopher Sergeant, Julian D. Olden

Scars from large mining operations are permanently etched across the landscapes of the world. The environmental damage and human health hazards that these activities create may be both severe and irreversible.

Read More
Participants of the climate demonstration Fridays for Future walk through Hamburg, Germany on Feb. 21, 2020. Axel Heimken / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

U.S.-based youth climate activists on Friday drew attention to the climate protest in Hamburg, Germany, where organizers said roughly 60,000 people took part, and hoped that Americans took inspiration from their European counterparts.

Read More