LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Three American firefighters were killed when a water tanker crashed while fighting wildfires in Australia.

The plane went down in the snowy mountains of New South Wales, about 70 miles from Australia’s capital.

The victims were identified as 44-year-old Capt. Ian H. McBeth of Great Falls, Montana, 42-year-old First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Buckeye, Arizona and 43-year-old flight engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. of Navarre, Florida.

Australian officials held a news conference following the deadly crash where the leaders said the tragedy shows the current condition’s danger.

The aircraft, a C-130 owned by Canadian company Coulson Aviation with the nickname of Zeus, is a water tanker that has fought fires in Southern California.

Last August, the plane was in San Diego where Ramona-based pilots trained on it. The tanker can carry up to 4,000 gallons of flame retardant.

Coulson issued a statement Tuesday night that read, in part:

“The aircraft had departed Richmond, New South Wales with a load of retardant and was on a firebombing mission. The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were three fatalities.”

At least 32 people have died in the fires since September.


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