Helicopter crash: Defence Force guilty of safety failure, apologises unreservedly

News from NZDF
The New Zealand Defence Force pleaded guilty in the Wellington District Court yesterday to a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure its people were not exposed to the hazard of a helicopter accident while at work.

The NZDF has accepted responsibility and unreservedly apologised for failing to prevent the Iroquois crash at Pukerua Bay, near Wellington, on 25 April 2010. The accident claimed the lives of three Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel: Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Dan Gregory and Corporal Ben Carson; and seriously injured a fourth, Sergeant Stevin Creeggan.

“As an organisation we did not do all that we could to ensure a safe working environment for our people,” said Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley outside the court.

“We have pleaded guilty to failing to prevent this accident and we have unreservedly apologised for our shortcomings. I reiterate that apology to all of the next of kin and to SGT Creeggan,” he said.

“The effect of this tragedy on the families of those lost, and on SGT Creeggan, will never go away. The only amends Defence can make is to ensure that the lessons of this tragedy also never go away. We have committed wholeheartedly to do that: part of the legacy of this accident has been a complete overhaul of the Defence Force’s approach to safety.

“We owe that to the crew of Iroquois Black 2, we owe it to the families, and we owe it to our Defence Force,” he said.

STATEMENT BY THE CHIEF OF AIR FORCE, AIR VICE-MARSHAL MIKE YARDLEY

“The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) have taken responsibility today for the circumstances which led to the Iroquois accident that occurred on 25 April 2010.

“This accident claimed the lives of three RNZAF personnel – Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Dan Gregory and Corporal Ben Carson; and seriously injured a fourth, Sergeant (SGT) Stevin Creeggan.

“As an organisation we did not do all that we could to ensure a safe working environment for our people. We have pleaded guilty for failing to prevent this accident and we have unreservedly apologised for our shortcomings. And I reiterate that apology to all of the next of kin and to Sergeant Creeggan.

“Safety, in any workplace, military or civilian, in peacetime or in combat, requires constant vigilance. It is not enough just to have systems and processes in place. We did not maintain the constant effort required to update, monitor and check our safety systems, and so we failed to prevent this tragedy and we failed our people.

“The failure here cannot be laid at the door of any one person, or small group: it was organisational. A variety of related flaws in our systems failed to prevent a fatal event.

“The effect of this tragedy on the families of those lost, and on SGT Creeggan, will never go away. The only amends Defence can make is to ensure that the lessons of this tragedy also never go away. We have committed wholeheartedly to do that: part of the legacy of this accident has been a complete overhaul of the Defence Force’s approach to safety.

“The Chief of Defence Force has established a Defence-wide Directorate of Health and Safety. This new group is a focal point for all health and safety issues across the NZDF.

“In the Air Force, our Flying Orders have been completely re-written. Improved risk-management assessments for all flights have been introduced, and a new operating airworthiness unit has been put in place to supervise the management and safety of all air operations at Ohakea, in line with similar units at our other bases.

“When I became Chief of Air Force earlier this year I said that I looked forward to guiding a modern, innovative and capable Air Force. A cornerstone of such an Air Force is ensuring that we meet our duty of care for our people, and that they can trust us to do so. I have reviewed the actions we have taken to achieve that and I am confident that the message that safety is paramount is now permanently embedded in our systems and our culture.

“We have to be an organisation that is looking far ahead for risks to our people, long before they become an accident. We owe it to the crew of Iroquois Black 2, we owe it to the families, and we owe it to our Defence Force and the New Zealand people.”

 

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