Pilot error may be crash cause



PILOT error probably caused a helicopter to crash into the sea near Mackay, killing former Gladstone resident Andrew Carpenter and two other rescue officers, an investigation found.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau yesterday released its final report into the crash which killed former Gladstone helicopter pilot Carpenter.

The accident happened about 10.30pm on October 17, 2003 and also killed crewman Stewart Eva and paramedic Craig Liddington.

All three men were 32 years old.

The rescuers were on a 30-minute flight from Mackay to Hamilton Island to retrieve a man with a broken leg when the Bell 407 helicopter plunged into the sea about 28km north of Mackay. The ATSB report concluded the pilot had most likely been disorientated as he tried to fly in the dark.

'While the ATSB could not conclusively determine why the helicopter departed controlled flight, it found that spatial disorientation of the pilot in dark night conditions over water was likely,' the ATSB said. As a result of the investigation, the ATSB recommended several safety improvements for helicopter medical rescues, particularly those undertaken at night. They included a revision of standard operating procedures for such missions, and improved pilot training.

Two centralised clinical coordination centres should also be established in Brisbane and north Queensland to deal with aeromedical operations, the ATSB said. Mr Carpenter worked in Gladstone for two years until July 2001.



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