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

Artists, activists and supporters stand at the ‘More Justice, More Peace’ mural in Victoria’s Bastion Square after the letter ‘S’ was painted over in black. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
ACAB removed from Victoria’s More Justice, More Peace mural

New message points to VicPD, City of Victoria for silencing BIPOC voices

Sooke’s Paul Larouche gold snipes along Sooke River, a process in which he uses a mask and snorkel to find pieces of gold. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Hitting the jackpot: Sooke man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Sooke RCMP are looking to add more members on their force, but they will have to seek approval from the District of Sooke before doing so. They say they need five additional members to accommodate 24-hour coverage of the region. (File - Black Press Media)
Sooke needs more officers to accommodate 24-hour coverage

District’s official community plan calls for 1 officer per 1,000 people

An incident on Sooke Road is slowing traffic Wednesday evening. (Courtesy of Mona Hazeldine)
Second driver not found after Sooke Road crash snarls evening traffic

Two vehicles involved in rear-end crash Wednesday evening

The Royal Canadian Legion kicked off its annual poppy drive in Sooke on Wednesday with the first poppies presented to Mayor Maja Tait and T’Sou-ke Nation Chief Gordie Planes. Legion representatives included legion president Richard Steele, second from left, and poppy fund chair Al Stuart, right. (Kevin Laird – Sooke News Mirror)
Mayor, T’Sou-ke Nation chief receive first poppies of 2020

Minimal Remembrance Day ceremony planned

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

Most Read