US Firefighters' Bodies Retrieved From NSW Plane Crash Site
The bodies of three US firefighters, who died after their waterbomber crashed in southern NSW, have been retrieved.
The recovery mission was completed before the firefighters' families arrive in Sydney on the weekend.
The families of captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr will be able to visit the "complicated" crash site northeast of Cooma if they wish to.
Capt McBeth, 44, is survived by his wife Bowdie and three children in Montana, where he was a member of the Air National Guard.
The plane's owners, Canadian company Coulson Aviation, said he was a highly qualified and respected C-130 pilot with years of firefighting experience in the military and with Coulson.
"Right now, our hearts are with the crew’s family and friends and our Coulson family suffering in the loss of these three remarkable and well-respected crew members."
Hudson is survived by his wife Noreen.
He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999 and spent the last two decades serving in the United States Marine Corp in a number of positions including as a C-130 pilot.
Hudson, from Arizona, also earned a Masters in both Business Administration and Information Technology Management from the Naval Postgraduate School.
DeMoragn, from Florida, is survived by his two children Lucas and Logan. His sister Jen DeMorgan posted a heartfelt tribute to her brother on Facebook today.
"It’s with a heavy heart and deep sadness I inform you my brother Rick DeMorgan passed away yesterday while fighting fires in Australia," she said.
He was a beloved friend, colleague, father, son and most of all brother. To most the sky was the limit, to them it was home. Rest in the arms of the angels.
DeMorgan served in the United States Air Force with 18 years as a flight engineer on the C-130.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons paid tribute to the trio as "an extraordinary team".
The men were identified on Friday after NSW Police worked to remove the deceased from the crash site at Peak View.
Updating media on Friday, ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said it's understood the C-130 tanker departed Sydney's Richmond air base about midday.
He said the aircraft arrived onsite about 1:15 pm and proceeded to drop a line of fire retardant across the ridge at Peak View.
"Not long after the aircraft had discharged the retardant, it impacted terrain, killing the three on board," he said.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is working to determine the cause of the crash and will work with Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology to “specifically to look at the temperature, wind direction and speed, and the impact that might have had on the aircraft”
The ATSB will also interview several witnesses to help piece together the sequence of events in the lead up to the crash.
Hood would not speculate on a possible cause, saying the process could take over one week.
"I know it's very frustrating and people want immediate answers," he said.
"We will be very focused on firstly, gathering evidence and then conducting analysis so that if we do have any early learnings for people, we will broadcast those quickly."