Crash could’ve been pre­vented if safety was pri­or­ity: wid­ows

Cape Breton Post - - NATIONAL -

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. (CP) — Three women wid­owed by the crash of Cougar Flight 491 made an emo­tional ap­peal Wed­nes­day to make travel to New­found­land’s off­shore a greater pri­or­ity, say­ing the deaths of 17 aboard the air­craft could have been pre­vented.

Sharon Pike told an in­quiry that she be­lieves her hus­band Paul would still be alive if prob­lems that arose with the Siko­rsky S-92A in Aus­tralia nearly a year be­fore the March 2009 crash were re­solved im­me­di­ately.

“He did not have to die in such a hor­rific way,” Pike said, chok­ing back tears.

Pike ap­pealed to Siko­rsky, Cougar He­li­copters and the oil com­pa­nies to make safety a top con­cern in the fu­ture.

“If th­ese com­pa­nies had acted upon the warn­ing they had when the he­li­copter was forced to land in Aus­tralia in July 2008 ... rather than al­low­ing for a time frame of one year or 1,250 fly­ing hours, Paul would be with his chil­dren and me to­day,” she said, with her son and daugh­ter sit­ting be­side her.

“Some­one in one of th­ese com­pa­nies should’ve taken this sit­u­a­tion more se­ri­ously.”

Siko­rsky is­sued a bul­letin in Jan­uary 2009 that gave op­er­a­tors of its S-92A he­li­copter up to 1,250 hours or one year to re­place the ti­ta­nium studs that at­tach an oil fil­ter bowl as­sem­bly to the chop­per’s main gear­box with steel studs. That bul­letin was prompted by a July 2008 in­ci­dent in Aus­tralia where, ac­cord­ing to an Aus­tralian Civil­ian Avi­a­tion Safety Au­thor­ity re­port, two ti­ta­nium studs “sheared ... al­low­ing oil leak­age” that forced an emer­gency land­ing.

The Trans­porta­tion Safety Board of Canada is still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crash off St. John’s, but it has said ti­ta­nium mount­ing studs broke be­fore Cougar Flight 491 crashed in the North At­lantic. The board has said the pi­lots

of the he­li­copter in­di­cated there was a prob­lem with the main gear­box oil pres­sure about 13 min­utes into the flight. Less than 10 min­utes later, it plum­meted into the ocean.

The ti­ta­nium studs have since been re­placed with steel un­der a di­rec­tive is­sued by the U.S. Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Of­fi­cials with Siko­rsky and Cougar, the op­er­a­tor of the he­li­copter that crashed in the North At­lantic, could not be reached for com­ment.

Dur­ing their tes­ti­mony last month, oil com­pany ex­ec­u­tives de­liv­ered a pre­sen­ta­tion on reg­u­la­tions, risk as­sess­ments and safety over­sight for the off­shore in­dus­try. They said op­er­a­tors must demon­strate to the fed­eral-pro­vin­cial board that reg­u­lates the off­shore oil in­dus­try that their plans for trans­porta­tion to the plat­forms ac­cu­rately iden­tify, as­sess and con­trol risks posed to work­ers.

Pike said she could not ar­tic­u­late the emo­tional pain her fam­ily has en­dured since her hus­band’s death.

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