US firefighters identified who died in Australia air crash

Hail stones the size of golf balls smashed down from the sky in Melbourne

Hail stones the size of golf balls smashed down from the sky in Melbourne

Helicopters were searching on Thursday for a C-130 Hercules air tanker feared to have crashed while fighting bushfires in Australia's alpine region, authorities said, as soaring temperatures and strong winds fanned blazes across the country's east.

Fitzsimmons said the aircraft had been leased by Canadian aerial firefighting company Coulson Aviation, which had another C130 Hercules working in the bushfires operation.

"Our deepest condolences are with the family and friends of our fallen heroes, " Coulson Aviation said in its statement.

McBeth served in the Wyoming and Montana National Guards.

First Officer Paul Hudson, from Buckeye, Arizona, spent 20 years in the United States Marine Corp.

"There is no indication at this stage of what caused the accident".

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"We brought them on with the plane and the crew, to get our pilots trained up so that we are ready to make a smooth transition to the Calfire C-130s starting next year", Shoots said.

The crash site is about 50 kilometres northeast of the small town of Cooma, in a still-active fire zone.

Coulson said the firefighting aircraft had been working on January 22 in the Snowy Monaro Area in southern New South Wales (NSW) when contact was lost.

The three firefighters died when their C-130 aircraft went down Thursday in the state of New South Wales, Australia.

At a farewell for 32 U.S. and Canadian firefighters who arrived in Australia before Christmas to help fight the blazes, New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons paid tribute to the three dead.

Experts previously estimated that more than a billion animals have also died in the fires.

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More than 70 fires continue to burn across NSW, with 30 uncontained. As of January 17, RFS aircraft had flown over 600 missions in support of ground-based firefighters in what has been a devastating fire season.

Our crews on the other aircraft will be returning to work in the very near future as they are dedicated to the job we are required to do.

It said the Lockheed C-130 was on a firebombing mission and was carrying a load of retardant when it crashed.

Authorities have closed the airport in Canberra, the capital, as two emergency-level fires joined into a single out-of-control fire nearby.

Despite rains earlier this week, more than 60 fires are still burning across New South Wales, fire service spokesman Greg Allen told the national broadcaster ABC.

A government official in Australia said the water tanker plane had been chartered by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

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