3 killed as Canadian air tanker crashes while battling bush fires
SYDNEY: A Canadian-owned C-130 Hercules air tanker crashed while fighting bush fires in Australia's alpine region yesterday, killing all three of its crew, the authorities said.
The victims were American residents, Australian authorities said, adding that they did not immediately know why the plane crashed while carrying a load of fire retardant.
"Tragically, there appear to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area," said Mr Shane Fitzsimmons, the chief of rural fire services for the south-eastern state of New South Wales.
"(The tanker) 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. There is no indication at this stage of what's caused the accident."
A spokesman for Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the aircraft went into a valley to drop the retardant and did not emerge.
Mr Fitzsimmons said the plane had been leased by Canadian aerial firefighting company Coulson Aviation, which had a second C-130 Hercules working in the Australian bush fires operation.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it was sending a team of investigators to the crash site to collect evidence and would analyse available recorded data, review weather information and interview any witnesses.
It would take about 30 days for the release of a preliminary report, it said, but if the investigation revealed a critical safety issue it would immediately notify stakeholders.
Coulson said the plane was on a fire-bombing mission with a load of retardant, and added it would send a team to the crash site to assist.
"The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were three fatalities," the company said in a statement. - REUTERS