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Governor Orders Flags To Fly At Half-Staff for Montana Guardsman

John Sonderman
Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Governor Steve Bullock ordered all flags in Montana to be flown at half-staff to honor McBeth Saturday, Jan. 25.

A Montana Air National Guardsman was one of three Americans who died in a large air tanker crash while fighting brush fires in Australia earlier this week. 

The C-130Q Hercules aircraft was piloted by Captain Ian H. McBeth from Great Falls. He was a member of the Montana Air National Guard and had also served with the Wyoming Air National Guard. He has spent his career in the military and with Coulson Aviation flying C-130s. 

Credit Coulson Aviation / Coulson Aviation
Coulson Aviation
Ian H. McBeth

The other members of the crew were First Officers Paul Clyde Hudson of Arizona and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan of Florida.

The crew members belonged to aerial firefighting company Coulson Aviation based in British Columbia, Canada that had a contract with Australia to fly in the New South Wales region.

On Friday Governor Steve Bullock ordered all flags in Montana to be flown at half-staff Saturday to honor McBeth.

“Ian was a devoted father and husband, a brave first responder, and a selfless service member who made the ultimate sacrifice helping the people of Australia combat the catastrophic wildfires devastating their country. Our service members and their families already sacrifice so much, and Ian took his call of duty even further to help those in need across the world. The thoughts and prayers of my family and administration are with the family, friends, and the fellow guard members of Lt. Col. McBeth. We will always be grateful for Ian’s service to our state, our nation and the world,” the proclamation read.

There are several hundred American volunteers in Australia helping with the firefighting, including those from the U.S. Interior Department, U.S. Forest Service and the National Weather Service.

Patrick Gilchrist is an Incident Meteorologist from the Glasgow who spent six weeks in Australia in November and December working with the Australian meteorologists providing specific incident forecasts for the wildfires. He got to see their size and ferocity up close.

"I’ve been on fires where there have been hundreds of thousands of acres burned. But over there there’s, some of them are half a million acres. The total number of acreage burned is in the tens of millions of acres burned and it’s just a bad situation over there," Gilchrist said. 

C-130 firefighting aircraft operating in New South Wales, where the accident occurred, and in Victoria have been grounded until further notice. Coulson Aviation will be sending a crew to help in the investigation.