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Buckeye man among 3 killed in Australia plane crash

Paul Clyde Hudson (Coulson Aviation Photo)

PHOENIX — A Canadian-based aviation company said one of three Americans who was killed Thursday when an aerial water tanker crashed while battling wildfires in southeastern Australia was from Arizona.

Coulson Aviation said in a Facebook post that Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, was from Buckeye.

Hudson and two others died after one of Coulson’s 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.

“The only thing I have from the field reports are that the plane came down, it’s crashed and there was a large fireball associated with that crash,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the deaths in the state’s Snowy Monaro region, which came as Australia grapples with an unprecedented fire season that has left a large swath of destruction.

According to the post, Hudson spent 20 years in the United States Marine Corps and is survived by his wife, Noreen.

Very few other details about Hudson were immediately available.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags on state buildings be lowered to half-staff Friday in Hudson’s honor.

“First Officer Paul Hudson was a hero who represented Arizona’s very best,” Ducey said in a statement.

“…First Officer Hudson served 20 years in the United States Marine Corps before becoming a firefighter. Then, when duty called again, First Officer Hudson didn’t hesitate, putting his life on the line to help others battling wildfires in Australia.

My sincere condolences go out to First Officer Hudson’s family and loved ones. And our prayers are with them and all Arizona’s firefighters providing aid in Australia.”

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she had conveyed Australia’s condolences to U.S. Ambassador Arthur Culvahouse Jr.

“Our hearts go out to their loved ones. They were helping Australia, far from their own homes, an embodiment of the deep friendship between our two countries,” she said in a statement.

The 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, an area bigger than Indiana.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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