Thursday, July 17, 2014

Anzac crash case nears end: Couple frustrated they will not see those in command at the time taking responsibility


A guilty plea is expected today from the NZ Defence Force over health and safety failures which led to the deaths of three men in a 2010 military helicopter crash.

The parents of one of the men killed in the crash want any guilty plea to come with a public apology from the NZDF - including from its commander at the time, Governor-General Sir Jerry Mataparae.

This afternoon, the Wellington District Court will see the NZDF called to answer a charge it failed to protect its staff from "hazards arising from the operation of helicopters" while at work.

The case was brought by crash survivor Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, who laid criminal charges against his commanders alleging breaches of health and safety after the Government bungled its handling of the case.

Sergeant Creeggan was badly injured in the crash, with his parents initially wrongly told he had died. He remained in the service, overcoming traumatic brain injury and multiple broken bones.

Andrew and Pauline Carson's son Ben, 25, was killed in the accident, with pilots Hayden Madsen, 33, and Dan Gregory, 28.

The Carsons yesterday praised Sergeant Creeggan for his courage in taking the case against his commanding officers.

Mr Carson said the case was driven by Mr Creeggan's desire to avoid future preventable accidents, and to hold the Royal New Zealand Air Force accountable.

The Carsons are frustrated they will not see those who were in command at the time taking personal responsibility. Mr Carson said: "To me, [Sir Jerry] Mataparae, [Air Vice-Marshal] Graham Lintott and two or three others should be in the dock. They were the people responsible. They should be the people facing the charge."

Sir Jerry was chief of the defence force at the time and Vice-Marshal Lintott chief of air force. Sir Jerry left to run the GCSB before being made Governor-General and Vice-Marshal Lintott serves as New Zealand's defence attache in Washington.

Sir Jerry was "hiding behind the Queen's petticoats", said Mr Carson. "You can't just give him a new uniform and a new job and that's the end of it." The Governor-General's office referred comment to NZDF, which had no comment to make ahead of the hearing.

The men were travelling in the second of three helicopters from Ohakea air force base to Wellington for the 2010 Anzac Day service to carry out a fly-over. In bad weather, shortly before dawn, they lost their way in fog and the helicopter went into the hill above Pukerua Bay.

The military Court of Inquiry into the crash found fault with the culture at Ohakea's 3 Squadron and the preparedness and training of pilots flying in bad weather with night vision goggles.

The Herald then revealed the officer who had signed off the flight did so after sending an email months earlier warning commanders someone would be killed through the squadron's attitude.

Helicopter crash

• April 2010: An Anzac Day fly-over ends in tragedy after a helicopter crashes killing three aboard.
• October 2011: The air force unsuccessfully prosecutes the pilot who signed off the crash.
• December 2011: The military Court of Inquiry is released, criticizing the helicopter squadron's culture.
• September 2012: The Herald reveals the officer who signed off the flight had warned the reckless culture would end in tragedy.
• October 2012: A leaked air force report reveals a string of safety recommendations were ignored.
• March 2013: Air force unsuccessfully prosecutes the lead pilot.
• November 2013: The courts give Stevin Creeggan permission to prosecute the air force.
• July 2013: The air force is called to answer a criminal charge. 

Story and Photos:

Pauline and Andrew Carson praised Sergeant Stevin Creeggan for his courage in taking the case. 
Photo / Peter Meecham

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