SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal preliminary report has found that an air tanker that crashed while fighting a wildfire in southern Utah, killing both pilots, hit mountainous terrain about 700 feet off the flight path of its lead plane. The National Transportation Safety Board report says the Lockheed P2V-7 was on its second flight of the day dropping retardant on the fire when it followed another plane into a shallow valley. The report says the tanker crashed into a mountain. NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway says the agency is still probing what the plane's flight path should have been and if any deviation contributed to the June 3 crash.  Firefighters were battling a lightning-sparked wildfire that jumped the Nevada border about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The pilots killed were from Boise, Idaho.The preceding report was provided by the Associated Press.

Here in Missoula, President of Neptune Aviation, Dan Snyder, says he and his staff participated in preparing the report, and says the company is taking its time in reacting to the accident and the report until all the facts have been gathered. He says the accident has caused the company to increase its vigilance, but has not changed any of their current air operations.

Snyder says the remaining eight Neptune aircraft are currently on assignment fighting fires all over the country. Snyder says he is especially pleased that the new BAE 146 jet aircraft currently in service in New Mexico is performing flawlessly. The BAE 146 flies twice as fast and carries a thousand more gallons of retardant as their present aircraft.

Neptune President Dan Snyder