27 February 2024

Independent public hearing into fatal Army helicopter crash set to start

| Andrew McLaughlin
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MRH 90 Taipan

The inquiry will look into the causes of the crash and the four deaths. Photo: ADF.

An independent public hearing into the fatal crash of an Australian Army MRH 90 Taipan helicopter in July 2023 will start today (27 February).

The Assistant Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF), former Justice the Honourable Margaret McMurdo, will conduct the hearing.

Justice McMurdo will be supported by two other assistant IGADFs – former Royal Australian Air Force Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi (retd), and barrister and senior Army Reservist Colonel Jens Streit.

The MRH-90 Taipan helicopter and its crew were flying as part of a formation in a night training activity during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 when the aircraft catastrophically crashed into waters near Lindeman Island in Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands.

Captain Danniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Naggs died in the crash. The aircraft and the four crewmen were part of No 173 Squadron from the Sydney-based No 6 Aviation Regiment (6Avn).

READ ALSO The rise and fall of the MRH 90 Taipan – what went wrong?

No 6 Aviation Regiment previously operated a dozen MRH 90s primarily in support of special forces in an anti-terrorism and special operations support role, and its pilots are trained to fly low and fast at night without external lighting. The unit is now re-equipping with and training on the first batch of new Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

The Army’s remaining fleet of about 20 Taipan helicopters was immediately grounded in the wake of the crash and was subsequently and controversially permanently withdrawn from service before any preliminary crash investigations were released.

The inquiry will examine the circumstances and causes of the deaths to determine whether actions or inactions by Australian Defence Force personnel or other personnel – including compliance or non-compliance with policies and procedures – were contributing factors to the crash.

The Inspector-General Inquiry acts independently of the ADF and has a responsibility to inquire into the cause of deaths of ADF members.

Finding out what happened and making recommendations to avoid or limit the risk of such an event occurring again are important outcomes of this inquiry. To this end, the Inspector-General has invited family members of those who died to be involved in the inquiry process, ensuring their perspectives are considered.

The inquiry’s first public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, 27 February 2024, at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on Riotact.

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