Flight boots of aviators killed in Australian firefighting efforts were part of a memorial service last week in New South Wales. (Coulson Aviation/Facebook)

Cockpit recorder inactive in Australian air tanker tragedy, crash probe finds

Investigation continues in crash of Coulson C-130 air tanker

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

A cockpit voice recorder was inactivated when a Coulson Aviation C-130 air tanker crashed in New South Wales in January, killing three crew members.

According to a preliminary report released Thursday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), there is no cockpit audio from the flight, a factor in a continuing investigation into the cause of the crash.

Investigators recovered the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) two days after the aircraft went down following a fire-retardant drop on the Adaminaby Complex bush fire in New South Wales.

READ MORE: Coulson Aviation C-130 crashes in Australia, killing three on board

“Although the recorder assembly was damaged in the accident, ATSB investigators were able to successfully recover all the data from the CVR’s crash protected memory module,” said Greg Hood, ATSB chief commissioner. “Unfortunately, the CVR had not recorded any audio from the accident flight. Instead, all recovered audio was from a previous flight when the aircraft was operating in the United States.”

Crash investigators have other evidence they can turn to, including witness video, Hood said. ATSB must still complete a teardown and inspection of the aircraft’s engines and propellers, review its maintenance history, performance and handling characteristics, and analyze witness reports. Investigators are also using 3D drone mapping to gain a better understanding of the crash sequence.

“The ATSB’s on-site examination of the wreckage, damage to the surrounding vegetation, and ground markings indicated that the aircraft initially impacted a tree in a left wing down attitude, before colliding with the ground,” Hood said.

Strong winds were reported at the time of the crash and have been cited as a possible factor.

“ATSB preliminary reports do not contain findings, identify contributing factors or outline safety issues and actions, which will be detailed in an investigation’s final and any interim reports,” said Hood, noting that probes can take up to 18 months.

“We are continuing to work with the ATSB, and we are providing every assistance to them as part of the investigations. It’s important for us, for our team and for the families of those we’ve lost, to understand what happened that day,” said company CEO Wayne Coulson.

The crash — at the height of the worst Australian wildfire season on record — claimed the lives of American crew members Ian McBeth, Paul Hudson and Rick DeMorgan, all military veterans. The crew was honoured Feb. 22 by the New South Wales government in a state memorial service attended by family members as well as survivors of other fire season victims, fellow firefighters and Coulson staff.

READ MORE: Coulson Aviation CEO walks Australian crash site, pays tribute to fallen flight crew

In a post on the company’s Facebook page, Wayne Coulson said grieving family members expressed gratitude for the show of support at the ceremony.

“The loss of Ian, Paul and Rick are felt very deeply by the families, and felt very deeply by their team members and the Coulson family,” he said. “People in Australia, and New South Wales, in particular, have continued to show how grateful they are for the work of the teams and for the work of all firefighters during what has been a terrible bushfire season for Australia.”

An Airservices Australia recording found no distress calls were made prior to the Jan. 23 accident. The crash ignited a fuel-fed fire that destroyed the air tanker, a former U.S. Navy plane built in 1981.

Coulson Aviation specializes in adapting and leasing aircraft to deliver advanced firefighting capabilities. In November 2019, the company landed a $52-million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to install retardant delivery systems on seven C-130s for use in California.

Coulson Aviation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Alert Bay: COVID-19 cases go from 30 to zero thanks to health and emergency planning

Dr. Cutfeet says community leadership set Alert Bay up for success

Kwakiutl First Nation cautiously eases restrictions around COVID-19; Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw to remain locked down for now

Both First Nations near Port Hardy have no COVID-19 cases, and are prioritizing community safety

Pacific Coastal Airlines will resume service next month

‘We are pleased to confirm that we will be resuming scheduled service on June 1, 2020’

MP Rachel Blaney feels low-income boost for seniors falls short, but is pleased with the support for commercial fishers

‘Seniors in our communities have been asking for help with additional costs due to COVID-19’

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Oak Bay man stumbles upon eagle hunting seal, grabs camera just in time

The eagle did ‘a perfect butterfly stroke to shore’ with its prey, photographer says

Most Read