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