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

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

Nelson and COVID-19: everything you need to know

Check this page for every local story related to the outbreak

MP Morrison touts non-partisan effort to provide relief amid COVID-19 pandemic

The federal government has announced a slew of economic initiatives for those impacted by the pandemic

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Interior Health to host virtual town hall Friday, March 27

The Q&A forum begins at 6 p.m. PDT, link in story

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Most Read