Family may pursue own options

MICHAEL FORBES AND HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2012

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Family of one of the airmen who died in the Anzac Day Iroquois crash say they will explore their own options for punishing "those responsible" if the Government does not investigate possible health and safety breaches.

The State Service Commission recommended yesterday that a team of former defence staffers should be established within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MoBIE) to investigate military aircraft accidents.

The commission ordered a review of how such issues were handled after the former labour department - now part of MoBIE - failed to investigate the 2010 crash because it thought air force incidents were the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority. The authority believed the labour department was responsible.

Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, 33, Flying Officer Dan Gregory, 28, and Corporal Ben Carson, 25, were killed when their Iroquois went down in cloudy conditions near Pukerua Bay en route to a dawn service fly-past in Wellington.

The commission's report also recommended the timeframe for laying prosecutions under the Health and Safety in Employment Act should be extended from six months to 12.

Andrew Carson, the father of Ben Carson, said now that it was clear the labour division of MoBIE has jurisdiction, it should be allowed to reinvestigate, even though the time limit had expired.

"They can't just put it in the too-hard basket and walk away. I believe there has to be an investigation into the people responsible."

If the Government did not act, Mr Carson said he would look to lay a complaint with police over his son's death.

The "total failure" by the former labour department was disappointing, he said. "Surely, some of the management there need to look at themselves after this and Pike River . . . what do they do between eating their play-lunch and their lunch?"

A second independent report released yesterday found 85 per cent (23 out of 27) of the major recommendations and 98 per cent (50 out of 51) of the additional recommendations made by the Court of Inquiry were complete. All 78 recommendations will be implemented by June next year.

Mr Carson said he was pleased with the progress addressing systematic failures. But he still felt that attitudes within the Defence Force would not change unless people were seen to be held accountable.

The only survivor of the crash, Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, is also trying to prosecute the Defence Force for its alleged failure to protect the welfare of an employee in the workplace.

His mother, Gaile, said yesterday that her son was pressing ahead.

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"He wants to make sure that things are actually put in place so the young ones coming [into the air force] are working in as safe an environment as they can be."

Mrs Creeggan supported Mr Carson's call for health and safety issues to be investigated.

The independent report also found the implementations of the recommendations "will not be enough to ensure that another major accident will not occur", urging an improved risk-management system and stronger governance of the Air Force Leadership Board.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the Anzac Day crash was a tragedy, and the air force was "taking every step it can to ensure it never happens again".

- The Dominion Post

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