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People embrace at Numeralla Rural Fire Brigade near the scene of a water tanker plane crash near Cooma in southern New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images

Three U.S. firefighters have died after a New South Wales Rural Fire Service air tanker crashed while fighting bushfires in the Australian state's Snowy Mountains, authorities confirmed at a news conference Thursday.

Details: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, operated by the Canadian company Coulson Aviation, crashed near Cooma in the southern part of the state. NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said, "Initial reports are there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground."

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The big picture: Fitzsimmons said the fire some 70 miles south of the nation's capital, Canberra, was one of more than 80 burning in the state, some out of control. Multiple bushfires were burning across Australia amid searing heat that topped 100°F in some places.

What happened: The fire chief said authorities lost contact with the plane just before 1:30pm local time as it flew over the Snowy Monaro area amid hot, dry and windy conditions.

  • "We've seen smoke and we've seen dust across the area," he said. "It was another very difficult, aggressive fire weather day, which resulted in so many of these fires spreading and breaking out."
  • Coulson Aviation has grounded the large air tankers as a precaution, pending review, and the firm's owners were on their way to Australia, Fitzsimmons said.
  • There's no indication of what caused the crash, but authorities were investigating, he added.
  • Authorities were contacting the victims' family members.
"Our hearts are with all those that are suffering what is the loss of three remarkable, well-respected crew that have invested so many decades of their life into firefighting."
— Shane Fitzsimmons

Go deeper: Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Cuomo asks for “independent” investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he would authorize and "voluntarily cooperate" with an independent investigation run by New York's attorney general into claims he sexually harassed several women.

The state of play: The statement comes after a day of competing statements from Cuomo and AG Letitcia James over who would oversee an independent investigation into the governor.

Cuomo scandal snares Dems on #MeToo

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images   

The searing sexual harassment allegations made against Gov. Andrew Cuomo are trouble for Democrats far beyond Albany and New York.

Why it matters: They hammered Donald Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape. Pilloried Brett Kavanaugh over Christine Blasey Ford. Defended President Biden when he was accused of inappropriate touching. Now, Democrats have to show whether they walk the "#MeToo" talk.

CPAC Republicans choose conservatism over constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CPAC proved such a draw, conservative Republicans chose the conference over their constituents.

Why it matters: More than a dozen House Republicans voted by proxy on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in Washington so they could speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz skipped an Air Force One flight as President Biden flew to Cruz's hometown of Houston to survey storm damage.