A water tanker plane tackling Australia’s bushfires crashed on Thursday as soaring temperatures and strong winds stoked out-of-control blazes in the country’s southeast.
Three Americans were killed when the water-bombing plane crashed southwest of Sydney, setting off a “large fireball”, Australian officials said.
New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said authorities lost contact with the C-130 Hercules aircraft, which was operating in the Snowy Monaro region, shortly before 1:30pm Thursday.
Mr Fitzsimmons said the aircraft owner, Canadian firm Coulson Aviation, was grounding its operations of large air tankers fighting fires in New South Wales and Victoria states “pending review” of the planes.
Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW, tweeted: “Heartbreaking & devastating news that three US residents who were crew members operating a LAT in the Snowy Mountains region have lost their lives. Our thoughts & heartfelt condolences are with their families & the tight knit firefighting community.”