Senator Wants Crash Revisited
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A senator wants the Air Force to look into why no disciplinary action was taken after investigators found safety, training and morale problems contributed to a helicopter accident that killed 12 airmen two years ago.
``I respect the judgment of our military professionals, but this case needs another look,″ said Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., who on Wednesday asked the Air Force to review the accountability of senior officers involved in the case.
``I understand that our military professionals have been ordered to do more with less, but was this squadron pushed too far?″
An Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, Lou Timmons, said the letter was received and officials are working on a response, which Bond requested by Sept. 18.
Two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters collided in midair the night of Sept. 3, 1998, during a training mission over Nevada. The victims, six aboard each aircraft, were members of the 66th Rescue Squadron stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.
While pilot error was the cause, the accident investigation board said the 57th Operations Group commander, Col. Larry New, was aware of safety, training and morale problems that also contributed to the crash, yet failed to fix them or warn the commander of the 57th Wing, Brig. Gen. Theodore Lay.
The other problems had been identified in a ``health-risk assessment″ ordered by New a year before the crash. His only response was to fire the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Charles McCausland.
The letter from Bond, who serves on the defense spending panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was prompted by the brother of Capt. Karl Youngblood, a pilot killed in the collision.
``It’s very obvious to anybody who reads the report that there was a total breakdown in the chain of command,″ said John Youngblood of Fenton, Mo. ``Nobody has been held accountable for this. There are 12 families that still remember what happened.″
Amy Dreifus, a former Air Force lawyer who served on the 10-member accident investigation board, said the panel believed New should be disciplined, though it made no such recommendation in its report.
The military looked again at the crash earlier this year when New was named to take over the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base. After an inquiry by the Air Force Times newspaper, Air Combat Command commander Gen. John Jumper withdrew the offer to New.
``While Colonel New’s career-long record of performance demonstrates he is a highly capable officer, his association with this accident, and the continuing news media scrutiny it draws, will detract from his ability to effectively lead the wing,″ Jumper said in announcing his decision July 10.
On the Net: http://www.senate.gov/ 7/8bond