Four North Carolina Air National Guardsmen who were fighting wildfires from the air in South Dakota died last July because of crew error. The conclusion was reported in a recently released accident statement, the News Observer said.
Four airmen died while fighting the White Draw Fire in the Black Hills of South Dakota about five miles northeast of Edgemont. Two seriously injured survivors were rescued by a helicopter from the plane crash site.
Those who died were Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville; Major Joseph McCormick, 36, of Belmont; Major Ryan David, 35, of Boone; and Senior Master Sergeant Robert Cannon, 50, of Charlotte.
According to the accident report the “cockpit crew’s inadequate assessment of operational conditions resulted in the aircraft flying into a microburst and impacting the ground.” The accident was partly the result of poor communication and conflicting information on how to circumvent a thunderstorm.
A microburst is a thunder storm’s severe localized downdraft that can sustain itself for under five minutes. The area it comprises is usually less than 2.5 miles.
The air tanker, which was the 145th Airlift Wing, was based in Charlotte.
President of the Accident Investigation Board, Brig. Gen. Randall Guthrie, was scheduled to recount the report’s conclusions later on Wednesday.
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