Australian investigators say a Coulson Air Tankers C-130 dropped into a valley to drop a load of fire retardant but didn’t climb out, and crashed, killing the three American crew members on board on Jan. 23. The aircraft was one of several being used in the massive firefighting effort that are owned by Coulson, based in Port Alberni, B.C. “(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,” said Shane Fitzsimmons, chief of rural fire services for New South Wales. “There is no indication at this stage of what’s caused the accident.”
Coulson is a world expert in the refit of ex-military C-130s for firefighting and it also has a converted Boeing 737 tanker in the tense effort in Australia. The C-130 carries about 15,000 litres of retardant. The crash plane was fighting a fire in a relatively mountainous area south of the country’s capital of Canberra. Coulson suspended flights to review its operations and inspect the remaining aircraft. Although parts of Australia have been doused in torrential rain, there are still many fires burning.