Firefighting Tanker That Once Trained in Ramona Crashes in Australia Killing 3 Americans On Board

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A firefighting water tanker plane that once worked in Ramona crashed in Australia Thursday with three American firefighters on board.

Firefighters lost contact with the C-130 Hercules, nicknamed "Zeus," in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales.

Zeus was in San Diego County in August training Ramona-based pilots who normally fly Cal Fire's workhorse S-2 tankers. NBC 7 profiled the tanker and even took a look inside.

Cal Fire will soon have another resource to combat fires. NBC 7's Artie Ojeda gets a look at the new tool.

Coulson Aviation in Oregon said the plane was lost after it left Richmond in New South Wales with retardant for a firebombing mission. It said the accident was "extensive" but had few other details.

All three aboard were U.S. residents, according to Australian Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

California’s governor said the three Americans who died were part of a crew on a California-based tanker.

"It's just devastating to lose one of your brothers in the aviation side, and knowing they were across seas fighting fires doing what they loved is a hard pill to swallow," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Brown said.

Take an inside look of the Ramona-based C-130 aircraft with NBC 7's Artie Ojeda and flight engineer Paul Huebner with Coulson Aviation.

The C-130 is owned by Coulson Aviation.

NBC 7 reached out to Coulson Aviation for comment. They responded saying in part:

"At Coulson Aviation, we have the incredible job of fighting fires around the world and we take pride in this responsibility. Right now, our hearts are with the crew's family and friends and our Coulson Aviation family suffering in the loss of these three remarkable and well-respected crewmembers."

Other large tankers in the area were grounded after the crash. Coulson Aviation was sending a team to the site to assist in emergency operations.

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