A C-130 helping to fight a wildfire in South Dakota crashed Sunday night in the southwest corner of South Dakota, military officials said.
Lt. Col. Rose Dunlap of the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte says six crew members were aboard, but that she could not yet provide any information about their condition.
Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal of Mooresville and Master Sgt. Robert Cannon of Charlotte were among those who died, according to family members interviewed by the Charlotte Observer.
The cause of the crash is not known and the incident is under investigation.
A helicopter was able to land near the Air Force plane and took three people to Custer to be transported by ambulance to Rapid City Regional Hospital for further medical treatment, the Fall River County Sheriff's Office told the Rapid City Journal.
The aircraft, equipped with a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), was supporting firefighting efforts in the White Draw Fire, which has burned 4,200 acres 90 miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota.
President Barack Obama said the firefighting crews put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans.
They are heroes who deserve the appreciation of a grateful nation, Obama said. The crew of this flight along with their families and loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers.
The C-130 was assisting a single engine air tanker with retardant drops.
MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than 5 seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.
There were eight MAFFS-equipped C-130s helping with the Waldo Canyon Fire burning west of Colorado Springs. Two belonged to the 302nd Airlift Wing, a reserve unit based at Peterson. The six other C-130s hail from the Wyoming Air National Guards 153nd Airlift Wing, the California Air National Guards 146th Airlift Wing and the North Carolina Air National Guards 145th Airlift Wing.
The North Carolina Air National Guard says the C-130 that crashed was part of the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, N.C.
Copyright Report a typo or inaccuracyCopyright 2012 TheDenverChannel.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.