Latest reports are saying that the C-130 that crashed in SD yesterday was carrying six crew members when it crashed. An INITIAL ACCIDENT INFORMATION and NOTIFICATION FORM on the incident was published on a wild land firefighting message board stating that there were four fatalities and two injured survivors in the incident.
According to numerous news outlets, the family of Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal of Mooresville, NC identified him as one of the aircrew members who was killed in the crash. Lt. Col Mikeal was 42 yrs old, was married and a father of two. He was also a veteran of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The aircraft was identified as belonging to the 145th Airlift Wing of the NC Air National Guard and based in Charolette NC.
The initial accident Information form also said that another aircraft which had been flying lead for the doomed tanker had experienced a severe downdraft as it approached the intended retardant drop zone. It is unknown if this was a factor in the accident.
When I first read about this accident on an aviation message board this morning, I was hopeful that there had only been three crew members on the plane when it crashed and that they had somehow survived. While I am very grateful that two survived, (though injured) the loss of the other four is truly a tragic event.
Although the use of aircraft for fighting wildfires has been occurring for years, it remains a dangerous endeavor. This is the second fatal crash of an air tanker this year and we still have a lot of fire season left to go.
My deepest condolences go out to the families, colleagues and friends of the fallen, mere words cannot express the respects that they deserve.