Saturday, January 25, 2020

Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules, N134CG: Fatal accident occurred January 22, 2020 in Cooma, New South Wales, Australia

Fallen Heroes: Captain Ian McBeth, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr.

Captain McBeth, 44, was a member of the Air National Guard. Mr. Hudson, 42, spent 20 years as a United States Marine, flying C-130s and receiving many decorations as he reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Mr. DeMorgan, 43, spent 18 years in the United States Air Force as a flight engineer on C-130s with extensive combat experience.

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Las Vegas, Nevada

Aircraft crashed while conducting fire bombing operations.

Date: 22-JAN-20

Time: 01:07:00Z
Regis#: N134CG
Aircraft Make: LOCKHEED
Aircraft Model: EC130
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 3 
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PUBLIC USE
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)

Air crash investigators have recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the charred wreckage of a water bomber that crashed while fighting bushfires in southern NSW, and are hoping it will reveal what occurred during the flight's final moments.

New vision of the hillside where the Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules crashed at Peak View was released on Saturday morning as investigators gained access to the site, revealing twisted wreckage spread over hundreds of metres of charred bushland.

The entire crew - United States nationals captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan jnr - were killed in Thursday's crash. Their bodies were recovered from the site on Friday night as their families prepared to fly to Australia.

The wreckage of the aircraft is barely recognizable, with only the tail left intact. Aerial footage of the crash site appears to show the plane ploughed through an open hillside, before disintegrating into a treeline at Peak View.

Air Transport Safety Bureau investigators began their meticulous analysis of the large crash site at first light on Saturday morning. They found the plane's cockpit voice recorder near the tail, Air Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Greg Hood said.

"Without knowing what exactly happened, we don’t know how useful that piece of equipment is, but we remain hopeful that it will assist us in the investigation," he told reporters near the scene on Saturday afternoon.

The voice recorder has been taken to the Air Transport Safety Bureau facilities in Canberra, where its data will be analyzed.

Air crash investigators believe the plane had delivered its load of fire retardant to an out-of-control bushfire nearby in the moments before the crash.

Mr. Hood has described the site as "particularly complicated". He added that the men had died in the "selfless pursuit of the prevention of loss of life and property".

Emergency services were seen combing through the blackened crash site, where a bushfire had swept through in the moments before the crash.

Executives of Coulson Aviation, the company that owned the C-130, which was on loan to Australia for the bushfire season, landed in Sydney on Saturday morning, and were expected to meet local authorities.

Mr. Hood said the Air Transport Safety Bureau would undertake 3D mapping of the crash site on Sunday and also planned to take eyewitness accounts from several firefighters who saw the crash.

As authorities work to piece together how the deadly incident unfolded, the professionalism and bravery of the airmen was lauded across Australia and the US.

Former C-130 crew member Bob Maddern, said Coulson Aviation pilots were "by far the most professional and safest to fly with".

The flight engineer said the crews he flew with were "trained for the untrainable".

"The crew I flew with were United States military and never once gave me cause for concern as to their capabilities," he said.

"While we had a lot of humor in our conversations into and out of the drop areas, once there, they were absolutely totally professional in every way."

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons described the deadly crash as "a body blow" to the firefighting fraternity.

The investigation into the tragic crash comes as the latest victim of Australia's bushfire crisis was identified as 59-year-old Michael Clarke.

Mr. Clarke's body was found in his burnt-out home near Bodalla on Friday, after fire swept through the South Coast region on Thursday, less than 60 kilometres from the C-130 crash.

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