WASHINGTON (CNS) — Representatives of the U.S. bishops expressed sorrow after three U.S. firefighters died Jan. 23 in an air crash while fighting bushfires in Australia.

“As the people of Australia continue to endure terrible fires, let us renew our prayer and generosity. Today, the suffering was brought even closer to home with the loss of three brave American crew members who died in the crash of a tanker airplane used in fighting wildfires in Australia. We join in prayerful solidarity with their families and with all the people of Australia and all those in regions affected by these terrible fires,” said a statement from Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.


The three Americans were among eight firefighters and 31 people total who have died in the wildfires since September.

The Americans, all military veterans, were identified as Capt. Ian H. McBeth, 44, of Great Falls, Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Buckeye, Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., 43 of Navarre, Florida. They died when the C-130 aerial water tanker they were in crashed in New South Wales.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who are suffering from this tragedy and from the disaster these dedicated professionals were fighting. In our prayer, we recall in trust that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, offering himself to us and calling us to himself even in our hardest hour,” said the statement from Archbishop Coakley and Bishop Malloy.

They also encouraged Catholics “and all appropriate parties to be generous in their financial support of these recovery efforts. We pray for the safety and well-being of those affected and those fighting the fires, and hope for the eventual restoration of the homes and natural habitats that have been destroyed.”

Catholic parishes in Australia were set to take a special collection the weekend of Jan. 25-26, with proceeds going to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Australia. The Vinnies, as they are known, also set up an online site for donations — https://bit.ly/37pSfLc — with assurances that credit cards from other countries could be used.