Crash investigators have returned to the wreckage of the Large Air Tanker where three US firefighters died, while arrangements are being made for the victims’ families to visit the site.
- At least six crash site investigators, including a C-130 expert, returned to the site ahead of a planned family visit
- Coulson Aviation, who operate the aircraft, allowed its fleet to return to the skies
- Coulson’s CEO said US crews would continue helping to fight Australia’s bushfire crisis
Captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr died during a “routine” waterbombing operation when their C-130 Large Air Tanker crashed on Thursday.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which recovered the plane’s black box on Saturday, said it returned to the site after bushfire conditions in the Peak View area eased.
It said five of its investigators as well as a C-130 expert with the Defence Flight Safety Bureau were examining the debris to determine what components would be collected for analysis in Canberra.
“Site mapping is a critical element of this investigation’s initial evidence gathering phase,” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood.
“It will allow our investigators to build a detailed picture of the nature and sequence of the accident.”
Mr Hood said on Saturday that mapping the crash site would be a “painstakingly meticulous” task.
Yesterday, the aircraft’s operator Coulson Aviation, based in North America and contracted by the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), surveyed the wreckage.
“To see that was devastating,” chief executive Wayne Coulson said at a Sydney press conference today.
“We are a safety-first company. For that reason it’s vital we understand the circumstances around this crash.”
After the plane went down in southern NSW, Coulson Aviation grounded its fleet both as a precaution and as a “mark of respect”.
Mr Coulson said his fleet has now returned back to the skies to continue its mission to combat Australia’s bushfire crisis.
“When we learned of the accident, we took a decision to ground our crew in NSW and Victoria,” Mr Coulson said.
“This was so our team members could take time to understand this loss.
“Any death is confronting. We met with the teams here in Sydney and they are back up in the air.
“They want to do the job they’re here for, supporting these beautiful communities in Australia.
“What drove, Ian, Paul and Rick and still drives our team, is the mission of supporting communities … across the world.”
The RFS said a pair of Coulson’s 737 Large Air Tankers flew three missions yesterday and said it provided “valuable assistance” to its firefighters on the ground.
The bodies of the three crew members, whose extensive military services were being honoured in the US, were being repatriated back to America.
Mr Coulson said the families of the US crew were scheduled to visit the site in southern NSW on Wednesday.
original source: Abc