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“Ball of flames”: Firefighter’s distress call after watching waterbomber plane crash

“Ball of flames”: Firefighter’s distress call after watching waterbomber plane crash

An audio clip has emerged of a ground staff member calling for help following the crash of an aerial water tanker in southern NSW.

In the distress call aired on the Today show, the staff could be heard calling the Rural Fire Service (RFS) command after witnessing the plane plummet in Eurobodalla on Thursday afternoon.

“Fire comms… message red, speak to your captain. Message this is red,” the person could be heard saying.

“Yeah fire comms... It's just a ball of flames... over.”

All three US aerial firefighting specialists on the Lockheed C-130 Hercules tanker died in the incident. The plane was fighting the Clyde Mountain fire when it crashed to the ground and exploded in a “large fireball”, NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

“Three remarkable men, coming down here to Australia once again this season, helping us to save and protect people but tragically this year, they won’t be going home to the United States,” said Commissioner Fitzsimmons.

The Commissioner said while the aircraft’s explosion was “absolutely a loss to the aviation capabilities”, the RFS could “adapt and accommodate the loss of [this asset] as we have a number of others operating in NSW”.

Investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) are set to visit the crash site to collect evidence.

“Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant stakeholders so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken,” the bureau said in a statement.