The three U.S. firefighters killed in Australia were veterans

Elizabeth Howe
January 24, 2020 - 8:10 am
In this undated photo released from the Rural Fire Service, a C-130 Hercules plane called "Thor" drops water during a flight in Australia.

Associated Press


The three Americans killed when their C-130 Hercules crashed have been identified as veterans. 

The three-member crew was flying the aerial water tanker over southeastern Australia fighting the unprecedented wildfires in the region. 

Captain Ian McBeth served with the Wyoming Air National Guard and was still a member of the Montana Air National Guard. He had spent his entire career flying C-130s. First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999 and spent  20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps serving as a C-130 pilot. Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan served in the United States Air Force for 18 years as a Flight Engineer on a C-130. 

All three were flying with Coulson Aviation, a privately-owned company that fights fires around the globe. 

In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, file photo, a firefighter battles the Morton Fire as it consumes a home near Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia.
Associated Press

"At Coulson Aviation, we have the incredible job of fighting fires around the world and we take pride in this responsibility," the company said in a media statement. "Right now, our hearts are with the crew's family and friends and our Coulson Family suffering in the loss of these three remarkable and well-respected crewmembers."

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted his condolences. 

The air tanker was lost after it left Richmond in New South Wales. The craft had just dropped its retardant when it crashed. The accident was "extensive," according to Coulson, but the company offered no other details.

“There is no indication at this stage of what's caused the accident,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the Associated Press.

Coulson has grounded its other firefighting aircraft as a precaution while the crash is investigated. Each of the company's Hercules aircraft drops more than 4,000 gallons of fire retardant in a single pass. 

All three crewmembers are survived by families. Hudson is survived by his wife, DeMorgan by two children, and McBeth by his wife and three children. 

Including the three crewmembers, the death toll from the fires in Australia is 31. More than 2,600 homes and 25.7 million acres have been destroyed. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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