A firefighting plane operated by a Portland-based company crashed Wednesday in Australia while battling wildfires, killing three Americans on board.
The aircraft, a C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker, was owned by Coulson Aviation, an Oregon subsidiary of British Columbia, Canada-based Coulson Aircrane. The plane went down in southeastern Australia. And according to a statement from Coulson Aviation, it was carrying retardant and was on a "firebombing mission."
"The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were 3 fatalities," the company wrote. "The accident response team has been activated as well as local emergency services, Coulson Aviation will be sending a team to the site to assist in emergency operations. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the three crew members onboard."
Coulson Aviation's operations, according to its website, include "helicopter logging, forest fire suppression, power-line construction, airliner passenger transport and many other industrial heavy lift operations."
The company declined to discuss what caused the crash, saying, "we ask for privacy as we mourn the loss our of crew."
According to a report from the Associated Press, Coulson has grounded other aircrafts pending an investigation.
The identities of the deceased firefighters have not yet been disclosed.
UPDATE, Jan. 24, 10 am:
The identities of the three men who died in the crash were made public. They were: Ian H. McBeth, 45, of Great Falls, Montana; Paul Clyde Hudson, 43, of Buckeye, Arizona; and Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., 44, of Navarre, Florida.