Navarre man among Americans killed fighting Australia fires

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NAVARRE, Fla. (WKRG) — A flight engineer from Navarre is identified as one of the Americans killed fighting wildfires in Australia. Rick DeMorgan, Jr. died along with two others in a Large Air Tanker crash Wednesday.

DeMorgan served 18-years in the U.S. Air Force as a Flight Engineer. According to a release from Coulson Aviation, his passions were flying and his children. He is survived by his two children, his parents, and his sister.

According to Coulson Aviation – Next Gen Firefighting, other crew members who died are Captain Ian H McBeth and First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson.

There will be a memorial service in Australia on February 23 to remember those killed in the NSW bush fires.

A previous statement from Coulson Aviation said one of its Lockheed large air tankers 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.

Coulson grounded other firefighting aircraft as a precaution pending investigation, reducing planes available to firefighters in New South Wales and neighboring Victoria state. The four-propeller Hercules drops more than 4,000 gallons of fire retardant in a single pass. Other crews will be returning to work in the near future.

The cause of this crash is still under investigation.

This tragedy brings the death toll from the blazes to at least 31 since September. The fires have also destroyed more than 2,600 homes and razed more than 25.7 million acres, which is larger than the state of Indiana.

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