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Firefighting Plane Crashes in South Dakota; Casualties Confirmed

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- An Air National Guard cargo plane based out of North Carolina crashed Sunday while fighting wildfires in South Dakota. Officials say six crew members were on board the C-130, but will only say there were casualties as well as survivors.

The plane had been dropping flame retardant on the White Draw fire near the town of Edgemont.

“Can't speculate on what may or may not have happened that caused the incident. That's going to be investigated in the next weeks and months,” said North Carolina National Guard spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver.

“There were casualties. There were lives lost. There were injuries,” Carver said. “We're very grateful for the survivors and our thoughts and our prayers and our hearts go out to the families that have lost loved ones.”

President Obama echoed that sentiment in a statement issued by the White House on Monday.

“The full details are still under investigation, but the crew of this flight – along with their families and loved ones – are in our thoughts and prayers.  

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

“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.”

Northcom says the other seven C-130s have been placed on “an operational hold at the present time.”

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