An air force officer could face a court martial over the Anzac Day 2010 helicopter crash that killed three men, and could go to prison if found guilty.
The unidentified officer, who was in command of the formation, is accused of failing to abort the fatal flight despite deteriorating weather conditions. A formal investigation will be held on April 4.
Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, 33, Flying Officer Dan Gregory, 28, and Corporal Ben Carson, 25, were killed when their 3 Squadron Iroquois helicopter crashed in thick cloud at Pukerua Bay, north of Wellington, about 6am on April 25, 2010.
They were in a formation of three Iroquois flying to Wellington from Ohakea airbase in Manawatu for a ceremonial fly-past.
A fourth crew member, Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, survived with serious injuries.
The charge specifies that, by failing to abort the flight in deteriorating conditions, he negligently failed to perform his duty as formation leader. The offence, under the Armed Forces Discipline Act, carries a maximum sentence of two years' jail.
A Court of Inquiry report into the crash, published in December 2011, found the flight should have been aborted when the squadron met cloud below 600ft near Paraparaumu.
"The charge does not allege that the accident was directly caused by [his] omission," a Defence Force statement said.
Stevin Creeggan's parents, John and Gaile, said they felt the charge was minor.
"The number of breaches of Defence Force flying orders that were broken before and during that flight [was serious]," they said. "Remember there were three fatalities and one seriously injured."
Ben Carson's father, Andrew, said the officer should never have allowed the flight to take off. "There was no need to take off and do what he did."
The Court of Inquiry report also identified a string of failures by the air force, including a risk-taking culture in 3 Squadron and a lack of qualifications among the crew.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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