President Barack Obama on Monday offered his thoughts and prayers for the crew of an Air Force National Guard airplane that crashed Sunday while supporting efforts to fight wildfires in South Dakota.
The details of the crash of the C-130 transport aircraft flown by members of the North Carolina Air National Guard are still under investigation, though reports indicate that some of the crew members died while others were injured and subsequently rescued from the crash.
The Air Force has grounded the remaining transports equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System.
Obama said that the crew and their families are in his thoughts and prayers and he offered high praise for the mission they were engaged in at the time of the crash.
"The men and women battling these terrible fires across the West put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans," Obama said in a written statement. "The airmen who attack these fires from above repeatedly confront dangerous conditions in an effort to give firefighters on the ground a chance to contain these wildfires - to save homes, businesses, schools, and entire communities."
He added, "They are heroes who deserve the appreciation of a grateful nation."
Obama said that he knows the country shares his concern for the surviving members of the crew and offered his condolences to the families of those killed.
"I know that Americans join me in expressing my deepest gratitude for the selfless determination they and thousands of men and women involved in this fight in states across the country demonstrate every day," he said.
The grounding of the firefighting aircraft comes after an earlier crash of a similar aircraft in Western Utah in early June. Only about 40 of the hundreds of C-130 aircraft operated around the world are expected to be affected by the grounding order.
The South Dakota fire is one of several sweeping across Western states this summer. Obama Friday traveled to Colorado to inspect the damage caused by another of the fires.
During that visit, Obama said that the efforts at the state, local and federal levels were starting to show some progress in slowing the spread of the fires.
"We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what's one of the worst fires that we've seen here in Colorado," he said. "Because of the outstanding work that's been done, because of not only the coordination but also some unprecedented arrangements that have been made with military resources combined with the civil resources, we're starting to see progress."
He added, "In the some of these subdivisions, the devastation is enormous. And our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who have been affected."
by RTT Staff Writer
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