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Blackwell To Lead Tanker Crash Probe

Forest Service officials have grounded all C-130s air tankers fighting fires nationally, and the regional agency boss in California has taken over a probe into a fatal C-130 crash in a 10,000 acre Sierra wildfire.

The victims were identified as pilot Steven Wass of Gardnerville, Nevada; co-pilot Craig Labare of Loomis, and crew member Michael Davis of Bakersfield.

Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes says Regional Forester Jack Blackwell, a pilot, will personally lead the investigation.

The C-130 military transport planes are one of the most important tools in the government´s aerial firefighting arsenal.

The airtanker took off from the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nevada, before crashing Monday. All three crew members were killed.

Seven C-130As currently are on contract to fight fires and five were in use at the time of the grounding.

KOLO-TV of Reno identified the pilot as Steve Wass of Gardnerville, Nevada, and broadcast excerpts of an interview, conducted Monday before he took off on his final flight, describing the importance of the aerial support to the hand crews on the ground.

The wildfire began Saturday afternoon in a remote section of the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest that U.S. Marines use for survival training.