Three Americans died Thursday when a C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker crashed while battling wildfires in the Snowy Monaro region of Australia's southern New South Wales state, officials say. Coulson Aviation in Oregon said in a statement that one of its C-130 Lockheed large air tankers was lost after it left Richmond in New South Wales with retardant for a firebombing mission. It said the accident was “extensive" but had few other details, the AP reports. Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the national air crash investigator, and state police will investigate the crash site, which firefighters described as an active fire ground.
"The only thing I have from the field reports are that the plane came down, it's crashed and there was a large fireball associated with that crash," said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. "There is no indication at this stage of what's caused the accident," Fitzsimmons said. He said all three aboard were US residents. “Unfortunately, all we've been able to do is locate the wreckage and the crash site and we have not been able to locate any survivors," he said. Coulson grounded other firefighting aircraft as a precaution pending investigation, reducing planes available to firefighters in New South Wales and neighboring Victoria state. The four-propeller Hercules drops more than 4,000 gallons of fire retardant in a single pass.
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