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Australia wildfires: Three Americans killed fighting fires identified as military veterans and fathers

Clark Mindock
Coulson Aviation USA

The three Americans who died while helping to fight the raging Australian wildfires have been identified by their employer following the Thursday crash of their C-130 Hercules bomber.

The three men were identified on Friday as 44-year-old Ian McBeth of Montana, Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Arizona and Rick DeMorgan Jr, 43, of Florida.

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed that the three men died after their plane went down in the state’s Snowy Monaro region, which is one of many areas impacted by the unprecedented fire season that has raged since late last year.

All three men were veterans of the US military who had been brought to Australia to help fight those fires by their employer, the Portland, Oregon, company Coulson Aviation USA.

McBeth served in both the Montana Air National Guard and the Wyoming Air National Guard. Hudson was a veteran of the Marine Corps and a graduate of the US Naval Academy. DeMorgan had served 18 years in the US Air Force.

Rick DeMorgan (Coulson Aviation USA)
Paul Hudson (Coulson Aviation USA)
Ian McBeth (Coulson Aviation USA)

“Right now, our hearts are with the crew's family and friends and our Coulson Family suffering in the loss of these three remarkable and well-respected crewmembers,“ the company said in a Facebook post.

Their deaths have been mourned by top US officials, including vice president Mike Pence and US ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse.

Mr Pence wrote out condolences to the family on Twitter, while Mr Culvahouse wrote his message of mourning in a statement. “The brave Americans who died near Snowy Monaro died helping Australia in its time of need,” he wrote.

Martha McSally, a Republican senator from Arizona and first female fighter pilot to serve in combat for the United States, also weighed in to mourn Hudson, writing on Twitter: "AZ tragically lost First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson yesterday. A 20-year Marine veteran, Hudson died protecting others. Praying for his family and friends today."

"Devastated to learn that Montana Air National Guardsman Ian McBeth was killed fighting fires in Australia," wrote senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, on Twitter. "Sharla and I are thinking of his family and are so grateful to the folks who put themselves in harm's way at home and halfway across the world."

McBeth is survived by his wife and three children, Hudson is survived by his wife and DeMorgan is survived by two children, according to the company.

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