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Plane Fighting N.M. Fire Crashes

June 28, 1998

RESERVE, N.M. (AP) _ An air tanker crashed while fighting a 400-acre fire at the Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico, killing the pilot and copilot.

The tanker had dropped half of its load over the blaze Saturday night and swooped into a bank to drop its remaining load of chemical retardant when it went down, Gila National Forest spokesman Jim Paxon said Sunday.

The bodies of the victims were recovered, but their names were not immediately released.

Paxon said it was unclear why the plane, powered by two propeller engines, crashed.

``There was nothing unusual about the first drop,″ Paxon said. ``There weren’t any evident problems. We didn’t see anything that raised alarm.″

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