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Military identifies 4 killed in crash of firefighting plane

July 03, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Flags flew at half staff at buildings in North Carolina on Tuesday as the state mourned four airmen killed in a weekend crash while fighting fires in South Dakota.

Military officials identified the four dead on Tuesday afternoon. Two other members of the crew of the C-130 that went down fighting the White Draw fire remain hospitalized, officials said.

“Words can’t express how much we feel the loss of these airmen,”  Brig. Gen. Tony McMillan, 145th Airlift Wing Commander, said in a prepared statement. “Our prayers are with their families, as well as our injured brothers as they recover.” The crew and the plane are part of the North Carolina Air National Guard unit based in Charlotte.

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The dead were identified as Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal,  42, of Mooresville, N.C.; Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, of Belmont, N.C.; Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, of Boone, N.C.; and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, of Charlotte.

Mikeal was assigned to the 156th Airlift Squadron as an evaluator pilot and had more than 20 years of service. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

McCormick was an instructor pilot and chief of training for the 156th Airlift Squadron. He was married with four children.

David was an experienced navigator and was also assigned to the 156th. He joined the North Carolina Air National Guard in 2011 after previous service in the active-duty  U.S. Air Force. He is survived by his wife and one child.

Cannon had more than 29 years with the Charlotte unit and was a flight engineer with the 145th Operations Support Flight. He was married with two children.

Officials said the crew, its craft and two other C-130s from the 145th and about three dozen airmen flew from Charlotte, N.C., to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday to assist with firefighting efforts in the West. The crash occurred around 6:30 p.m. near Edgemont, S.D., as the crew assisted with battling  the White Draw fire.

The cause of the crash is unknown and is under investigation, officials said.

The craft was equipped with a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, also known as MAFFS. The system is designed to drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than 5 seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide.

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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