Navy Investigation Faults a Failed Half in Lethal Helicopter Crash

The Navy has cleared the pilot and crew of any wrongdoing in a helicopter crash that killed 5 sailors in August 2021 off the coast of San Diego, as a substitute laying blame on a failed a part of the plane’s rotor.

In line with the report, launched Tuesday, the service’s investigation into the incident discovered {that a} “failure of the yellow damper hose” on the MH-60S Seahawk led to the “whole lack of major rotor system damping and the instant onset of extreme vibrations upon landing.”

The helicopter, which was working off of the plane provider USS Abraham Lincoln, ended up shedding management when it was touchdown, struck its rotors on the deck, and fell into the ocean. Along with the lack of almost your complete plane’s crew of six, 5 sailors on the deck of the ship had been additionally injured.

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The plane was a part of Helicopter Sea Fight Squadron 8, primarily based at Naval Air Station North Island, California.

The report affords extra element into the lethal crash and what the Navy is doing to stop future incidents.

It defined that the helicopter was ending a two-and-a-half-hour flight by which it was the “airplane guard” for the provider — a response plane prepared to start search and rescue within the occasion of a crash — when it crashed.

Because the helicopter got here in for a touchdown, it first skilled heavy vibrations, then it swung to the left about 50 levels, then 200 levels to the appropriate. Its rotor blades struck the flight deck, and particles broken a close-by compartment, in addition to three close by T-45 Goshawk coaching jets.

Although the report does not explicitly lay out how the sailors on deck had been injured, it does notice that “shrapnel from the indifferent rotor blades impacted personnel positioned within the Arresting Gear Officer pit.”

The helicopter fell over the facet of the deck, tail first. In line with testimony given by the only survivor from the helicopter crew, “he escaped from the left gunner’s window and swam to the floor as quickly as he was in a position to get free.” By his estimate, he swam about 25 toes to succeed in the floor.

The sailor, a naval aircrewman third class whose identify was redacted within the report, advised investigators that the remainder of his crew members had been nonetheless of their harnesses earlier than the plane went overboard.

After three days of looking out, the Navy’s commander of Third Fleet, Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, the person accountable for personnel on the West Coast, declared that the crew was useless on Sept. 3, 2021. reported that the Coast Guard paused its search flights on Sept. 2, though the service did not publicly announce the choice till two days later.

In line with the ultimate report signed by Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Naval Air Forces, the Navy addressed the mechanical points with the damper hose by issuing new directions for correct upkeep and ordering a examine to be performed on how usually the hose must be changed. On the time of the incident, it was Navy coverage that the hose be used till it failed.

A supplemental report additionally famous that “this mishap casts doubt on the performance and reliability” of the life preservers worn by the helicopter’s crew. Whitesell ordered the inspection of 10% of aircrew life preservers to search out out whether or not they’re useful all through the fleet and a examine of the depth at which a correctly functioning life preserver fails.

The service beforehand recognized the 5 sailors who died as Lt. Bradley A. Foster, 29, a pilot from Oakhurst, California; Lt. Paul R. Fridley, 28, a pilot from Annandale, Virginia; Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31, from Salem, Virginia; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns, 31, from Severna Park, Maryland; and Hospital Corpsman third Class Bailey J. Tucker, 21, from St. Louis, Missouri.

— Konstantin Toropin may be reached at Observe him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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