THE Trangie community is in shock following the death of local pilot David Black.
Mr Black was undertaking firefighting operations along the south coast when the plane he was flying crashed into remote bushland west of Ulladulla on Thursday.
He leaves behind a wife and three children.
A Trangie resident, who didn't wish to be named, said the death had left the town stunned.
“It's unbelievable,” the resident said.
“I know the pilot personally. He has a wife and a young family.
“His children go to the local school. He runs an aviation business here and is a very experienced pilot.''
Narromine Shire mayor Bill McAnally was at loss for words when he heard the news on Thursday afternoon.
"It is a terrible shock and absolute loss to the community to lose not only a great and brave man but a loving husband and father,” councillor McAnally said.
"It is a tragic loss of life and as we are a small community, this accident touches everyone deeply.
"It is a shame that something like this happened as people like the pilot so bravely put their lives on the line to protect communities during the often devastating effects bushfires can have.
"And to think some of the fires are deliberately lit is shocking as accidents like this can happen to people trying to protect communities so there should be more repercussions for people who do the wrong thing by lighting a fire, they should really think about what their actions can lead to.”
The remote bushland and fires in the area meant recovery efforts were being hampered.
VIDEO: RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons responds to the tragedy
"As soon as conditions are in our favour, we will retrieve the pilot", Shoalhaven local area commander superintendent Joe Cassar said.
"This sort of collision resulted in significant damage to the aircraft but we haven't been given specifics," Superintendent Cassar said.
The reason for the crash is at this time unknown.
More fire fighters were called to the scene, after the crash caused another fire to start in the area.
Water bombing aircraft were called in to help the efforts.
"It's hurt the RFS family. It's hurt the firefighting community and I know it's hurt the community that everyone was trying to protect down in that south coast region," he said.
"But right now our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones who are right now ... trying to come to grips with what has happened today," Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
"It's a tragedy for the fire fighting community but first and foremost it's a tragedy for this man's family," he said.
"He's a husband with young children and we're all acutely aware that there's a family suffering today because their dad didn't come home."
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has also offered his condolences.
“On behalf of the NSW Government, I pay tribute to the 43-year-old pilot whose aircraft crashed while fighting a bush fire near Ulladulla,” Mr O’Farrell said.
“It serves to highlight the danger all our emergency personnel and volunteers face every day while protecting our community.
“They put themselves in danger on our behalf and we are all truly grateful.
“This loss will be a particular blow to the brave men and women who have worked so hard saving property and protecting lives during this crisis.”
NSW Police Aviation Command were heading to the scene yesterday afternoon with an air crash investigation officer, who will liase with Air Transport Safety Bureau investigators.
Investigations are continuing and a report is being prepared for the coroner.