independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Pilot killed fighting Sydney wildfires

Firefighters watch as a helicopter drops water on a fire approaching homes near the Blue Mountains suburb of Faulconbridge, around 80km west of Sydney, yesterday.

A pilot trying to fight one of several raging Australian wildfires died when his plane crashed, in the second fatality resulting from the fires that have ripped through the nation's most populous state over the past week.

The 43-year-old was the only person on board and was trying to drop water on to a blaze in rugged terrain near Ulladulla, south of Sydney, when his plane went down, Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

"He's a husband with young children and we're all acutely aware that there's a family suffering ... because their dad hasn't come home," an emotional Mr Fitzsimmons said. "We're also feeling for the firefighting community."

More than 100 wildfires have killed one resident and destroyed more than 200 homes in New South Wales this month.

Sixty-one fires were burning, with 23 out of control, although cooler weather has decreased the fire threat and many residents who evacuated have returned to their homes.

Officials were trying to access the crash site, but the steep terrain and wind was making it difficult, New South Wales police superintendent Joe Cassar said.

"We are trying to recover the pilot from the scene but are being challenged by weather conditions and nearby fire," Mr Cassar told reporters in Nowra.

Irish Independent

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