Three Americans have died after a US-owned water tanker plane crashed in a fireball while fighting bushfires in New South Wales.
All three of the C-130 Hercules plane’s crew were killed when it went down in Australia’s alpine region.
The state’s Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, said: “Tragically, there appears to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area.
“[The tanker] impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground. There is no indication at this stage of what’s caused the accident.”
Rural Fire Service (RFS) officials said the plane, which was operated by Coulson Aviation from the US state of Oregon, was carrying out waterbombing activities before it went down.
The RFS added that they lost contact with the aircraft and the flight tracker stopped and the scene in has been cordoned off by police.
Canberra Airport in Australia’s capital closed because of nearby bushfires earlier on Thursday, with residents south of the city told to take shelter.
The fires in Canberra started Wednesday but strong winds and high temperatures caused conditions in the city to deteriorate.
A second fire near the airport that started on Thursday morning is at the “watch and act” level.
The airport authority said in a tweet: “Arrivals and departures are affected due to aviation firefighting operations.”
Another tweet from traffic police said “the fire is moving fast and there are multiple road closures in the area. Please avoid the area. Local road blocks in place”.
Defence Minister Angus Campbell told reporters: “The defence force is both assisting to a degree and looking to whether that needs to be reinforced.”
He added: “I have people who are both involved as persons who need to be moved from areas and office buildings that are potentially in danger, and also those persons who are part of the (Operation) Bushfire Assist effort.”
Bushfires have been raging in Australia since September last year, and have claimed 28 lives while destroying more than 2,600 homes.
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