The Aerial Firefighting Community Pays Tribute to Fallen Flight Crew


A Memorial Service was held on 30th January at RAAF Base Richmond to honour First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, Captain Ian McBeth and Flight Engineer Rick A DeMorgan Jr. from Coulson Aviation.

Representatives from fire agencies, aerial firefighting companies, families and friends joined Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Minister David Elliot, NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter and CEO of AFAC Stuart Ellis to honour the fire aviators. Coulson Group CEO Wayne Coulson  and his family flew to the crash site on Saturday and walked the nearly one-kilometre-long crash area where the wreckage of the aircraft remains. A voice cockpit recorder was recovered, according to Australian news reports, and Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) officials will be going over it to see what they can learn of the crash.

“To see our aircraft on the ground knowing we had such loss of life was devastating,” Coulson said at a press conference hosted by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS).

Captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr., all from the United States, died in the crash on 22nd January.

The aircraft was deployed to fires in the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW, Australia and was loaded with fire retardant.

“These pilots were valued members of our firefighting family. They were known all around the world for their skill and experience in aerial firefighting and in the C-130 military world,” Coulson said, acknowledging that they are three of six firefighting deaths in NSW during this Australian firefighting season.

“On behalf of the families of Capt. Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr., I would like to say thank you all for your support and kindness during this tragic time. The outpouring of heartfelt grief from around the world has been much appreciated and deeply felt at this time of loss.”

A number of fundraising opportunities have been created to assist families of aircrew that have died fighting the Australia bush fires, including Coulson Tanker 134 Memorial Fund on GoFundMe.

Sources: NSW Rural Fire Services and Alberni Valley News