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Obama on crash of firefighting plane: Crew members are 'heroes'

Obama on crash of firefighting plane: Crew members are 'heroes'
An Air National Guard C-130, the type of plane that crashed Sunday while fighting the White Draw Fire in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Michael Wilber / North Carolina Air National Guard / Associated Press)

President Obama on Monday expressed his condolences to the families of crew members killed and injured when their military plane crashed while fighting a wildfire in South Dakota.

In a statement released by the White House, Obama called the crew members heroes. The Air National Guard C-130 crashed Sunday while fighting the White Draw Fire in the Black Hills of  South Dakota.

“The men and women battling these terrible fires across the West put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans. 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,” Obama said.

“They are heroes who deserve the appreciation of a grateful nation. I know Americans across the country share my concern for the well-being of the surviving members of the crew and my deep condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. And 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 crash is under investigation; the remaining fleet of seven C-130s  equipped with firefighting equipment has been temporarily grounded.

Officials have yet to say how many were wounded and how many died in the crash. The craft carried a crew of six from the North Carolina Air National Guard, officials said.

“Obviously there were casualties,” Lt. Col. Robert Carver of the North Carolina Air National Guard told the Associated Press. “We are also thankful there were survivors.”

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