Great Falls man among 3 victims of firefighting plane crash in Australia

The man is a member of the Montana Air National Guard
Posted at 5:51 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 11:58:40-05

Three Americans died in Australia after an air tanker crashed in the state of New South Wales, where huge fires continue to burn.

One of the three was Ian McBeth of Great Falls, who was also a member of the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard. He was employed by Coulson Aviation, based in British Columbia, which had been contracted to help battle fires in Australia.

Coulson Aviation on Thursday evening identified the three men who died in the crash and provided the following information:

  • Captain Ian H. McBeth born November 24, 1975: Ian lived in Great Falls, MT and is survived by his wife Bowdie and three children Abigail, Calvin, and Ella. Also, by his parents Willian and Anneliese and his siblings Rick Fernandez, Eleanor McBeth, and Aislinn McBeth. Ian’s love for his wife and children was evident for anyone who spent time around him. Ian was a highly qualified and respected C-130 pilot with many years fighting fire, both in the military and with Coulson Aviation. Ian served with the Wyoming Air National Guard and was still a member of the Montana Air National Guard. He has spent his entire career flying C-130’s and was a qualified Instructor and Evaluator pilot. Ian earned his Initial Attack qualification for Coulson in 2018.
  • First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson born July 21, 1977: Paul lived in Buckeye, AZ and is survived by his wife Noreen. Paul graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999 and spent the next twenty years serving in the United States Marine Corp in a number of positions including C-130 pilot Paul retired as a Lt. Colonel and received many decorations during his career. He earned Masters in both Business Administration and Information Technology Management from the Naval Postgraduate School.
  • Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. born October 13, 1976: Rick lived in Navarre, FL. and is survived by his two children Lucas and Logan, his parents Rick Sr, Linda, and his sister Virginia. Rick served in the United States Air Force with eighteen years as a Flight Engineer on the C-130. Rick had over 4,000 hours as a Flight Engineer with nearly 2,000 hours in a combat environment. Ricks passion was always flying and his children.

Colonel Buel Dickson, commander of the 120th Airlift Wing, said: "It is with a heavy heart that I inform you we lost a valued Airmen and friend last night. In performing his civilian duties as an air tanker pilot, fighting wildfires in Australia, Lt. Col. Ian Mcbeth’s plane went down. There were no survivors. Ian was instrumental in the flying success of the 120th Airlift Wing and will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family as they navigate this painful and tragic situation. It is never an easy thing to manage, the loss of a brother in arms affects us all. Please know through difficult times such as these you are never alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out and lean on each other as we navigate this loss together."

Coulson said: "The aviation industry and emergency service sector is a small community both in Australia and around the world. This will be deeply felt by all. We honor the amazing crews who do incredible things in dangerous circumstances supported by world-class operations. We are incredibly moved by the outpouring and support from those in Australia and around the world. Thank you for recognizing the work that our crews do and for expressing your condolences and grief for the families of our fallen heroes."

The water-bombing tanker had been chartered by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), according to state Premier Gladys Berejiklian. It was called in to fight a bushfire near the town of Cooma in the state's southeast. 9News Australia reports that the plane was nicknamed "Zeus."

Coulson Aviation said in a statement that the crew had been on a firebombing mission when the accident occurred. The company shared the following message on its website:

  • While working in the Snowy Monaro Area in southern NSW, Australia contact was lost with one of our large airtankers, a Lockheed C-130 registration N134CG. The aircraft had departed Richmond, NSW with a load of retardant and was on a firebombing mission. The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were 3 fatalities. The accident response team has been activated as well as local emergency services, Coulson Aviation will be sending a team to the site to assist in emergency operations. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the three crew members onboard.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told 9News: "They are extraordinary professionals. They are highly skilled. They are trained specifically in aerial firefighting techniques. In particular, large airplane and large air tanker aerial firefighting. Highly experienced and internationally well respected and well regarded for their expertise."

"Today is a stark and horrible reminder of the dangerous conditions that our volunteers, our emergency services personnel across the number of agencies take on a daily basis," Berejiklian said. "It demonstrates the dangerous work currently being undertaken. It also demonstrates the conditions that our firefighters are working under."