As you probably know, a C-130 aircraft outfitted temporarily so that it could function as an air tanker, crashed on Sunday while it was helping to suppress a wildfire near Edgemont, South Dakota, killing four and injuring two crew members. The plane belonged to the North Carolina National Guard and was based at Charlotte, North Carolina. I have family in Charlotte and they tell me that this is a big news story in their town. The four victims lived in the Charlotte metro area and the accident has received heavy coverage in the Charlotte Observer. An article about the crash today shared the front page with an excellent appreciation of the recently departed and much-beloved Andy Griffith, another North Carolinian.
Here is an excerpt from the article about the C-130 crash, from the eyes of a resident of Edgemont, SD:
…In South Dakota, Dave Augustine said he saw a plane fly into the smoke of the fire.
“What seemed like the time he should have come up, the fire really got with it,” said Augustine, 68. “I never saw that airplane again.”
Augustine was watching the blaze with binoculars from his home about seven miles away in Edgemont, S.D. It was Sunday evening about the same time the C-130 from Charlotte crashed while spreading fire retardant in advance of the inferno.
“I couldn’t say whether it was the same plane, but I wasn’t surprised when I heard about the crash,” he said.
Seconds after the plane disappeared into the smoke, the fire suddenly seemed to intensify, he said. A plume of black smoke rose straight up from the gray smoke he had been observing for days.
“All that smoke came up right afterward,” Augustine said. “About that time I could see flashes of trees really lighting up. It was the biggest smoke I saw. It looked like something had happened.”
Winds seemed intense at the time, he said. He had been observing the fire, which has ravaged about 5,000 acres in southwestern South Dakota, since Friday. Blown by wind gusts, the fire moved about five miles on its first day.