USA –-There are casualties, both wounded and dead, from the crash of a military cargo plane that was fighting a wildfire in South Dakota, officials announced Monday.
The plane, a C-130 from the North Carolina Air National Guard in Charlotte, N.C., crashed Sunday while battling the White Draw fire near the town of Edgemont, according to an emailed statement from U.S. Northern Command. As a precaution, officials have grounded the seven other C-130s used in firefighting, pending an investigation of the crash.
The plane carries a crew of six; officials did not identify any of the casualties.
However, family members of Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal of Mooresville, N.C., confirmed that they’d been notified early Monday that he had died in the crash, according to the Associated Press. Mikeal was described as a 42-year-old married father of two who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There were casualties, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were injured and those who lost their lives, the Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado said in its statement. The family members of these airmen are especially on our minds.
Eight Air Force C-130s are equipped to drop water or fire retardant. They’re flown by Air Force National Guard units at Charlotte; Port Hueneme, Calif.; and Cheyenne, Wyo., and by a Reserve unit in Colorado Springs, Colo. The downed craft belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, based at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, officials said.
The eight craft had been dispatched to Colorado last week to fight an outbreak of wildfires there, including the Waldo Canyon fire, the most destructive in the states history.
The planes are fitted with a so-called modular airborne firefighting system that allows it to drop as much as 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in seconds.
The White Draw fire was reported on Friday and is considered about 30% contained, officials said. It has burned about 4,200 acres.
Officials said a C-130 MAFFS based out of North Carolina has crashed while fighting wildfires in South Dakota. (Michael Wilber / North Carolina Air National Guard / July 2, 2012)