A Lockheed Martin EC-130Q firefighting aircraft has crashed in the Australian state of New South Wales while combating forest fires, killing three crew members.

The commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Shane Fitzsimmons, has confirmed the crash.

The accident occurred near the Peak View area, which lies 130km to the south of Canberra in mountainous terrain. Australian television reports that the crash site has been located by helicopters.

Coulson Aviation (USA) conrims that the aircraft involved bears the registration N134CG (MSN4904) and that it disappeared at roughly 13:00 local time. The aircraft was operated by Coulson Aircrane (USA). Reports indicate that the company has suspended all tanker operations in Australia following the crash.

“The Aircraft had departed Richmond, NSW with a load of retardant and was on a firebombing mission,” says Coulson in a statement. It will send a team to the site to assist emegency operations. 

All three crew were American citizens.

The aircraft was delivered new to the US Navy in 1981. It later served with NASA for experimental work from 1992 to 1993, at which point it was placed in storage.

Coulson acquired it in 2017 and converted the aircraft to perform aerial firefighting work. According to Coulson Aviation’s web site, its firefighting C-130s are equipped with a RADS-XXL roll-on, roll-off tanking system that can carry 4,000USgal of fluid.

Large parts of Australia have been ravaged by forest fires in recent months owing to drought conditions in the country.

Updated with Coulson’s confirmation of registration number and comment.