‘Your brother is our hero’: World mourns US firefighters
The three American firefighters who died in the fiery crash of their Hercules waterbombing aircraft in NSW yesterday have been identified as ex-US military family men.
Pilots Captain Ian H. McBeth, 45, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr, 43, have been described as "fallen heroes" by their bosses at Canadian aviation giant Coulson Aviation.
Father-of-three Captain McBeth had spent his entire career at the controls of C-130 Hercules aircraft and was a qualified instructor and evaluator. He lived at Great Falls, Montana with his wife Bowdie and their three children Abigail, Calvin and Ella.
"Ian's love for his wife and children was evident for anyone who spent time around him," Coulson Aviation said in a statement.
"Ian was a highly qualified and respected C-130 pilot with many years fighting fire, both in the military and with Coulson Aviation."
He was a member of the Montana Air National Guard and served with the Wyoming Air National Guard.
First Officer Hudson was a highly-decorated ex-marine who lived in Buckeye, Arizona with his wife Noreen.
He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999 and spent the next 20 years serving in the US Marine Corps in a number of positions including as a C-130 pilot.
He retired as a Lt Colonel and held a Masters in both Business Administration and Information Technology Management from the Naval Postgraduate School.
Flight Engineer DeMorgan, from Navarre, Florida, leaves two children Lucas and Logan.
He spent 18 years in the US Air Force as a flight engineer on the C-130 with more than 4000 hours as a flight engineer and nearly 2000 hours in a combat environment.
"Rick's passion was always flying and his children," the company said.
"Our deepest condolences are with the family and friends of our fallen heroes."
Mr DeMorgan's sister, Jen DeMorgan told friends her brother was a hero.
"He was a beloved friend, colleague, father, son and most of all brother," she said.
"To most the sky was the limit, to them it was home. Rest in the arms of angels."
The identification of the three men follow NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing a state memorial on February 23 to honour those who had died this fire season.
Ms Berejiklian said the memorial would give members of the public a chance to recognise the sacrifices made by the men and women fighting the bushfires.
It would be an important step in healing and rebuilding, Ms Berejiklian also said.
The memorial will be attended by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons who said "while we have seen tragedy we have also the best of the community".