- Arkansas voter ID law struck down by state judge
- FDA proposes ban on e-cigarette sales to minors
- Bad omen? Italian man crushed to death by John Paul II crucifix
- Company stopped from accepting abortion waste
- Girl surprises Michelle Obama with unemployed dad’s resume
- ‘Harry Potter’ religion class seeks to enlighten students on ‘God, sin, and theodicy’
- ‘Optionally piloted’ Black Hawk helicopter clears tests; future missions to go ‘fully unmanned’
- Vice News reporter kidnapped in Ukraine is freed after being beaten, blindfolded
- FCC’s new ‘net neutrality’ proposal sparks outrage among consumer advocates
- Families of ferry’s lost confront South Korean officials
2 die in Utah firefighter plane crash
Second craft malfunctions, forced to land
RENO, Nev. — A firefighting aircraft crashed into rugged terrain near the Utah-Nevada border as it dropped retardant on a 5,000-acre wildfire, killing the two Idaho men on board.
The air tanker went down Sunday afternoon in the Hamblin Valley area of western Utah, Bureau of Land Management officials said. A helicopter crew saw the crash and told ground crews that "it didn't look good," Iron County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Jody Edwards in Utah told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The two pilots were fighting the fire, which was sparked Friday by lightning in eastern Nevada. It spread into Utah, though most of the blaze remained in Nevada, about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Ground and air crews held the fire back from the wreckage, giving sheriff's deputies enough time to drive and hike to the site and confirm that the pilots had died, Sgt. Edwards said. The fire later overwhelmed the crash site. A medical examiner was helping authorities recover the bodies Sunday night.
The weather was windy and hot, creating "explosive fire conditions," said Tom Harbour, the fire and aviation operations director for the U.S. Forest Service. The terrain was rolling hills with pine, juniper and cheat grass, a thin wispy grass that carries fire quickly.
There was no immediate word on what caused the crash.
The plane was a public-use aircraft, meaning it was contracted with a government agency, and therefore was not subject to Federal Aviation Authority regulations, said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus.
There were no air traffic control services and the pilot was flying under visual flight rules at the time of the crash 50 miles west of Cedar City, Mr. Fergus said.
The FAA will conduct its own probe in addition to the lead investigation headed by the National Transportation Safety Board. The investigation will look at whether there was a mechanical issue with the plane, whether there was pilot error or whether weather contributed to the crash.
The sheriff's office identified the pilots as Todd Neal Tompkins and Ronnie Edwin Chambless, both of Boise, Idaho. They were flying a P-2V air tanker owned by Neptune Aviation Services of Missoula, Mont.
Mr. Tompkins' wife, Cassandra Cannon, said her husband had flown air tankers for 17 years and believed the work he did was meaningful and impacted the safety of others. She said he was dispatched to the wildfire Sunday and immediately began flyovers.
A second air tanker, also a P-2V, malfunctioned Sunday afternoon and was unable to lower all of its landing gear. That crew was helping at a wildfire near the Minden-Tahoe Airport, which is about 50 miles south of Reno. That plane was not owned by Neptune.
That plane remained in the air for another 90 minutes to burn off fuel before making an emergency landing on a runway, Douglas County sheriff's spokesman Jim Halsey said. The aircraft sustained significant damage after it slid off the runway, but both crew members escaped injury, he said.
TWT Video Picks
By Tammy Bruce
Only IRS employees could expect rewards for failing to pay their taxes
- Holder cancels appearance in OKC amid angry protests
- 'Top Gun' for drones: Squadrons of carrier-based killers have Navy's approval
- In its hunt for Senate, Republican candidates campaign against Harry Reid
- America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds
- Obamacare class-action suit opens a new legal front
- Sold out: Ukraine's leadership swapped best military weapons for cash
- Justice at last: 'Evil woman' outed for grabbing girl's game ball
- Gun control supporters send message to NRA
- Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy hailed as patriot, ripped as lawless deadbeat
- Nevada rancher's racial remarks cost him range of support
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Celebrity deaths in 2014