Fire Season's Fatal Start...

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Three Killed In P-3B Crash

Three crew members died last Wednesday when a Lockheed P-3B firefighting air tanker crashed immediately following a fire-retardant training drop in Lassen National Forest near Chico, Calif. Killed were Brian Bruns, 45, of Minden, Nev.; Paul Cockrell, 52, of Fresno; and chief pilot Thomas Joseph Lynch, 41, of Redding. "They were extremely good pilots," said Terry Unsworth, CEO of Aero Union Corporation of Chico, which owned and operated the aircraft. "This is a very tragic incident." The accident flight was the seventh flight of the day for that aircraft. The purpose of the flights was to conduct qualification checks for pilots who were scheduled to conduct firefighting operations during the upcoming fire season. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, which happened at about 6:50 p.m., according to the NTSB. There were no distress calls from the crew, the company said. Dispatchers called 911 when the aircraft failed to return on time. The crash sparked an intense wildfire that burned about two acres. The accident aircraft was manufactured in 1966 and was formerly operated by the U.S. Navy. It was powered by four Allison T56A11 turboprop engines.