Probe into fatal Australia bushfire plane crash complicated by dangers

Around 250 firefighters from the United States and Canada have undertaken deployments in Australia since the start of the season...

Istanbul, Jale Akbar, İnteraz - 24 January 2020, 17:33

Australian officials were working on Friday to extricate the bodies of three U.S. firefighters from a plane that crashed in remote bushland, as the area’s “active” bushfire status complicated an investigation into the accident.

 

Officials said it was still too early to speculate on the cause of the crash of the C-130 Hercules tanker plane on Thursday, killing its entire crew, just after it dumped a large load of retardant on a huge wildfire in a national park.

 

“We are very much into the evidence gathering phase of the investigation,” Greg Hood, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the investigation, told reporters. “We will not be speculating.”

 

However, he added that “we have nothing to suggest there was a systemic fault” when asked whether other aircraft in use were safe.

 

Coulson Aviation, the Canadian firm that owned the plane and employed its crew, revealed on Friday that all three were former U.S. military members with extensive flight experience: Captain Ian H. McBeth, 44; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42; and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr., 43.

 

Firefighters in Australia held a minute’s silence and flags on official buildings in New South Wales (NSW) state, where the plane crashed, were flown at half-mast as a mark of respect on Friday.

 

Around 250 firefighters from the United States and Canada have undertaken deployments in Australia since the start of the season.

 

A 41-strong U.S. team arrived in Melbourne from the United States on Friday to help in eastern Victoria, the state’s Country Fire Authority said.

 

While fire conditions eased in southeastern Australia on Friday, Sydney was choking on a new smoke haze, blown in by a baking hot wind from the fires burning in the south of the state.

 

In New South Wales, firefighters were tackling 65 blazes with only one at the “watch and act” category, meaning there was no immediate threat. In Victoria state, all 37 fires were rated at the lowest level.

 

Reuters