IRON COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - An air tanker fighting the White Rock Fire crashed Sunday evening at 2:09 p.m. in the Hamblin Valley area, according to Chris Hanefeld, the incident contact for the White Rock fire on behalf of the Utah Bureau of Land Management.
The cause of the crash is unknown Sunday night. It killed 46-year-old Todd Neal Tompkins and 42-year-old Ronnie Edwin Chambless. Both men are from Boise, Idaho.
They were flying a Forest Service-contracted P-2V heavy air tanker dropping retardant. The plane was heavy with 1,600 gallons of fuel and 2,000 gallons of water and fire retardant, according to spokesman for the Iron County Sheriff's Department, Jody Edwards.
The air tanker is owned by Neptune Aviation Services, of Missoula, Mont. It was making stops in Cedar City to refill and crashed in a rugged and remote area about two hours west of Cedar City.
A heavy air lift helicopter fought hard to keep the 5,000 acre fire away from the crash site for about an hour and a half until rescue crews could arrive to the crash site. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
The NTSB arrived at the crash scene Monday morning. It could take anywhere from six months to a year for the NTSB to reveal the official cause of the crash.
Lightning started the White Rock Fire shortly before 10:00 p.m., Friday in Lincoln County, Nev., about 25 miles northeast of Caliente. The fire crossed into Utah by Saturday evening.
Full containment of the fire is expected by Saturday evening, June 9.