Three people have died after a C-130 Hercules water tanker crashed near Cooma this afternoon.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service had chartered the plane from Coulson Aviation, a family owned company, with head quarters in British Columbia Canada and offices in the USA, and that specialises in aerial fire fighting. The three crew members on the plane who died are all US citizens.
The New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, confirmed at a press conference this afternoon that three crew members died when a Large Air Tanker crashed while fighting a bushfire west of Cooma. The tanker is capable of dropping 15 000 litres of water or fire retardant at a time and was involved in routine water bombing at the time of the crash.
RFS Chief Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, revealed at the same press conference that “there appears to be no survivors as a result of the crash in the Snowy Monaro area.”
The tanker was fighting a blaze that was at emergency level near Adaminaby north east of the Snowy Mountains near Cooma. It is not known what caused the accident and the wreckage was located in an active fire zone.
“Coulsons have grounded their large air tankers this afternoon and as a mark of respect and as welfare for the rest of their crews operating large air tankers here in New South Wales and interstate in Victoria, have grounded the operations pending review” said Fitzsimmons.
The plane had departed from Richmond RAAF base early this afternoon but disappeared from the flight radar an hour after take off and went down after 1.30pm.
“The firefighting fraternity, as we keep saying, is a tight knit family, a fairly small family. The crew on board were well known, not just to their colleagues here in Australia, but we’re reminded that a number of our US colleagues that are embedded in some of the incident management teams including in the high country, actually had personal relationships with them” said Fitzsimmons.
The Coulson Aviation family posted a release on social.
The Adaminaby Complex Fire has been downgraded to Watch and Act.