UPDATE @ 7.30AM | AUTHORITIES have revealed the identity of the volunteer firefighter who lost his life in what was described by crews on the ground as a “truly horrific” incident in southern NSW.
Samuel McPaul, 28, was killed when the truck he and two others were travelling in was flipped by a “fire tornado” on Monday evening.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons described Mr McPaul as a well respected and admired member of his local brigade.
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“He leaves behind, tragically, a beautiful wife Megan, who was pregnant with their first child that is due on the 4th of May,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said, visibly holding back tears.
“As you would expect the family is grieving. It’s been a very difficult night.
“I don’t even think the comprehension has set in yet of the enormity of the tragedy and the loss.
“Megan and Sam have been married now for nearly 18 months. They were married only in April of 2018.
“We have a completely devastated family and a devastated local community at what has just been an extraordinary loss.”
The RFS said its initial understanding was that the truck rolled under extreme winds due to the 26,000-hectare Green Valley fire at Talmalmo.
“The local crews described what they experienced as truly horrific,” the Commissioner said.
“They described it as an extraordinary wind event .. a fire tornado .. that’s resulted in cyclonic type winds that has moved across the fire ground and has lifted up a 10 or 12 tonne fire truck and flipped it on to its roof, trapping the people inside and tragically killing Sam in the process.”
Two other firefighters in the truck were also injured, one remains in a serious condition.
That same event moved through the fire ground, enveloping another fire truck in flames, injuring two other firefighters.
They suffered burns to their face and airways and needed to be flown to a Sydney hospital for treatment.
Almost 100 blazes continue to burn across NSW, with dozens uncontained.
EARLIER @ 05.50AM | The Prime Minister and New South Wales Premier have given their condolences to a volunteer firefighter, who has died while battling blazes in the south of the state.
The NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed on Monday night that firefighters were working on the massive fire in Green Valley, around 70km east of Albury, when their truck rolled when hit by extreme winds associated with the fire.
One firefighter, believed to be a 28-year-old man, died at the scene.
Another firefighter, a 39-year-old man, was also airlifted to The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne where he remains in a serious condition with burns.
The truck driver, aged 52, was treated at the scene before being taken to Holbrook Hospital for minor injuries and has since been released.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his sympathies are with the victim’s families, while NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is calling the incident heartbreaking.
Devastated at the terrible news of the loss of another volunteer firefighter and two others injured near Jingellic in southern NSW where a truck has rolled over. In a separate vehicle another firefighter has been injured.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) December 30, 2019
Just heartbreaking. A brave firefighter has lost their life protecting the community east of Albury. Words fail at times like this.
— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) December 30, 2019
NSW Police have confirmed they are investigating the incident.
“Officers from Murray River Police District attended and established a crime scene, which was examined by specialist forensic officers,” a police statement read.
“A report will be prepared for the information of the Coroner and inquiries continue.”