DENVER – An American firefighter with Colorado ties was among the three killed Thursday when a C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker crashed while battling wildfires in southeastern Australia.
Lt. Col. Ian McBeth, who lived in Great Falls, Montana, was the pilot in command for the Coulson Aviation Large Air Tanker C-130 at the time the plane went down in the Snowy Monaro Area in New South Wales, Australia, an official with the Montana Air National Guard said in a Facebook post.
In a tweet sent shortly before 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis expressed his sympathies to the family and said McBeth was a 1994 graduate of Wray High School.
My deepest sympathies go out to the family of firefighter Ian McBeth who lost his life volunteering in Australia to fight the wildfires when an aerial water tanker plane crashed in New South Wales Thursday. Ian was a graduate of Wray High School in 1994.— Jared Polis (@GovofCO) January 24, 2020
Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/59rDiAEg0u
McBeth was a highly qualified and respected C-130 pilot with many years fighting fires, both in the military and with Coulson Aviation, a news release from the aviation company stated.
He joined the Montana Air National Guard in 2013 and eventually became an evaluator pilot for the wing, according to an official with the Montana Air National Guard. The official said McBeth also served with the Wyoming and Nevada Air National Guards and had more than 4,300 flying hours as a military pilot and navigator of the C-130.
McBeth’s death brings the death toll from the blazes to at least 31 since September, according to the Associated Press.
Coulson grounded other firefighting aircraft as a precaution pending investigation, reducing planes available to firefighters in New South Wales and neighboring Victoria state. The four-propeller Hercules drops more than 4,000 gallons of fire retardant in a single pass.
McBeth is survived by his wife and three children, as well as his parents.