Ben Longden Posted August 4, 2008 Share Posted August 4, 2008 I have attached the following story from the Parkes Champion Post simply to highlight how hard it can be to see power lines. I have highlighted the relevant text. The coroners suggestion for power companies is also to be noted. Ben Helicopter deaths caused by â€˜rogueâ€™ power line: inquest 4/08/2008 9:23:00 AM Three people, including two Parkes Shire workers, were killed when their helicopter struck what was described in evidence as a â€˜rogueâ€™ overhead power line, an inquest into their deaths found in Forbes on Friday. The inquest, before Deputy State Coroner, Magistrate Carl Milovanovich, heard evidence during the past two weeks. Mr Milovanovich handed down the formal verdict on Friday morning and found that the pilot, Shane Haldane Thrupp (of South West Helicopters), and Parkes shire employees, Ian Phillip Stephenson and Malcolm John Buerckner died on 2 February, 2006, adjacent to the Parkes/Orange Road approximately 20 kms south of Parkes from multiple injuries when the aircraft Mr Thrupp was piloting collided with an overhead power cable and then impacted with the ground. As a result of the evidence, Mr Milovanovich made several recommendations which will go to the Federal Minister For Aviation and the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA). Among them was the need to urgently identify power lines with appropriate markers. â€˜In so far as the subject wire which crosses the Parkes/Orange Road and which has a span of some 1200 metres, this wire has been described by experienced pilots as one of the worst and most hazardous wires they have seen,â€™ the magistrate said in his summing up. â€˜I can confirm from the most enlightening flight with the police Aviation Support branch that even when hovering some 20 metres away from the subject power lines and with them directly in front of the aircraft, they were almost impossible to see against the blue sky and surrounding terrain. â€˜Whatever the cost, these wires, described by some as rogue wires, must be identified with an appropriate marker or markers as a matter or urgency.â€™ Mr Milovanovich also highlighted the lack of a â€˜paper trailâ€™ in the dealings before the fatal accident. â€˜The evidence indicates that the contractual arrangement between Parkes Shire Council and South West Helicopters was all conducted orally. â€˜The lack of a paper trail is unsatisfactory.â€™ Immediately after the finding, the wife of one of the victims, Debbie Buerckner said she was relieved the matter had finally came to a close. â€˜I only hope something comes out of it all, and that these recommendations are followed through. I will certainly be watching to see what eventuates.â€™ The evidence during the two weeks heard that on 2 February, 2006, a Bell Helicopter 206B Jet Ranger piloted by Shane Thrupp struck a power line at a location known as â€œthe Dungeonsâ€, approximately 20kms from Parkes at a height of about 130 feet directly above the Orange/Parkes Road. As a result of the wire strike and subsequent impact with the ground Mr Thrupp and two passengers, Mr Buerckner and Mr Stephenson received fatal injuries. The inquest heard Mr Thrupp was appropriately qualified to conduct aerial work and had about 2210 hours total flight experience in helicopters and some 1100 hours experience in low level agricultural applications. The only eye witness to the accident was Mr Russell Schmidt, who first observed the aircraft while driving his vehicle along the Parkes/Orange Road. He told the court he observed the aircraft strike the power lines and he believed the wire had impacted with the aircraft in the area above the cockpit and just below the rotor blades. â€˜We know that the point of impact with the wires was approximately 120 feet above the road surface and that the ATSB investigation determined that the speed of the aircraft was approximately 61 knots at the time of impact and that the aircraft impacted with the ground approximately 88 meters north of the point of impact with the wire,â€™ Mr Milovanovich found. â€˜It is known that shortly after impact the aircraft exploded and was consumed by a fire in which the escaping aviation fuel acted as an accelerant. â€˜The ATSM with the aid of an eye witness account and from the examination of the wreckage was of the view that the aircraft was operational at the time of impact and there was no evidence to support a loss of power or altitude due to any mechanical failure. â€˜All three occupants of the aircraft died as a result of impact injuries and I note the comments of the Forensic Pathologist, Matthew Orde that in his opinion the subsequent fire and explosion did not contribute to death,â€™ the magistrate said. â€˜The power line with which the helicopter impacted was erected around 1951, the court heard. The power lines are supported by two poles approximately 7.5 metres apart and located 1,260 metres apart in a generally east west direction crossing the Parkes/Orange Road at 90 degrees. â€˜What is abundantly clear from the evidence is that any aerial operation has inherent risks and those risks are compounded when low level operations are undertaken, Mr Milovanovich said. Statistics provided from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) indicates (subject to the accuracy of the date) that 32 fatalities have occurred between 2002 and 2006 as a result of aircraft striking wires. â€˜What has emerged is the importance of having well established planning systems and the generation of documents as part of the contractual relationship that defines the nature of the operation, the planned flight paths and the altitude at which operations will take place. â€˜The evidence in regard to the Parkes incident indicates that the contractual arrangement between Parkes Shire Council and South West Helicopters was all conducted orally. â€˜The lack of a paper trail is unsatisfactory for two reasons, firstly an appropriate check list and a documented contractual agreement should have specified the expectations of the customer (Parkes Shire Council) and the agreement should have not only addressed issues of appropriate certifications to undertake the operation, but also set out the intended flight path, level of flight etc. Secondly, such documentation should have been oversighted by both the customer (Parkes Shire Council) and the Chief Pilot in accordance with South West Helicopters Operations Manual. â€˜The independent oversighting of the planned operation may have identified possible hazards, an essential element from the perspective of the aircraft operator in terms of ensuring that the operation is within the companyâ€™s certification and that the aircraft to be used was appropriate for the intended task. â€˜From the customers (Parkes Shire Council) perspective, documented contractual obligations and a check list of issues in terms of risk assessment and occupation health and safety would provide an appropriate paper trial in the event of injury or death following an operational incident.â€™ Mr Milovanovich found the wires that were struck by the helicopter did not have any markers attached to them that may have made them more visible to either the pilot or any crew member or observer. â€˜Notwithstanding the economic and logistical constraints the number of wire strike incidents and fatalities in the past ten years would suggest that power supply companies need to come to terms in regard to their obligation to provide information and early warning as to possible hazards. â€˜The amount of air traffic, including the increasing popularity of ultra light aircraft is likely to increase the frequency of wire strikes unless there is a unified approach by all stakeholders in reducing the risk. â€˜In so far as the subject wire which crosses the Parkes/Orange Road and which has a span of some 1200 metres, this wire has been described by experienced pilots as one of the worst and most hazardous wires they have seen. â€˜I can confirm from the most enlightening flight with the police Aviation Support branch that even when hovering some 20 metres away from the subject power lines and with them directly in front of the aircraft they were almost impossible to see against the blue sky and surrounding terrain. â€˜Whatever the cost, these wires, described by some as rogue wires, must be identified with an appropriate marker or markers as a matter or urgency.â€™ Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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