MINDEN, Nev. - A Forest Service-contracted P-2V heavy air tanker dropping retardant on the White Rock Fire crashed in the Hamblin Valley area of western Utah shortly before 1 p.m., Sunday. Both crewmembers were killed. Their names have not been released.
The cause of the crash is unknown. The Iron County Sheriff's Office has responded and emergency response teams and an investigation accident team are en route. The P-2V is owned by Neptune Aviation Services, of Missoula, Mont.
The lightning-ignited White Rock Fire was first reported shortly before 10 p.m., Friday, in Lincoln County, about 25 miles northeast of Caliente. By Saturday evening, the fire had grown to nearly 5,000 acres and crossed the state line into Iron County, Utah.
The fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain dominated by pinion-pine and juniper trees, sagebrush and grasses. The Bureau of Land Management Ely District is fully suppressing the fire to protect sage-grouse and other wildlife habitat, and for firefighter and public safety. Full containment is expected by June 9.
Meanwhile, less than an hour later on this side of the state, another P-2V discovered it would need to make an emergency landing at Minden-Tahoe Airport on Sunday afternoon.
At about 1:50 pm, personnel from the East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts and Douglas County Sheriff's Office responded to the Minden-Tahoe airport for a report of an inbound firefighting aircraft tanker that was unable to lower all of it's landing gear. Tanker 55, a Lockheed P2V, reported it was unable to lower one of its three landing gear.
The pilot of the plane circled the plane in the area for about 90 minutes to burn off fuel before attempting an emergency landing. The pilot landed the plane on a cleared runway at the airport at about 3:30 p.m.
Due to the malfunction with the landing gear, the plane slid off the side of the main runway. No injuries were reported by the two-person crew, however the plane sustained significant damage. The plane is owned by Minden Air, a local business based at the Minden-Tahoe Airport.