Pilot Reportedly Deviated From Course Set By Navigator
A US Coast Guard Lieutenant facing serious charges in the 2010
crash of an MH-60 in 2010 could catch a break if the
recommendations of an investigator are accepted by a commander.
As ANN reported, 31-year-old Lieutenant Lance Leone earned a
long list of Coast Guard awards and accolades, including
commendation medals. Witnesses to the accident say that during the
flight from Astoria, Oregon to the crew’s base in Sitka,
Alaska, the helicopter was flying low and hit power cables strung
1,900 feet from LaPush, Washington to James Island. (Photo: James
Island as seen from LaPushby Benjamin Cody.) Leone was pulled from
the water by onlookers.
The Coast Guard charged Leone with negligent homicide,
dereliction of duty and destruction of government property,
contending he failed to properly navigate to avoid charted hazards
and negligently failed to ensure the helicopter was flying at a
higher altitude. He is also being held accountable for the loss of
the $18 million aircraft. He could face more than seven years in
prison if convicted at a court martial.
Prosecutors tried to make the case that Leone was responsible
for the navigation of the aircraft. His civilian attorney countered
that the lieutenant programmed a course which would have missed the
wires, but that the pilot, Lieutenant Sean Krueger, saw a Coast
Guard vessel in the water below and deviated from the programmed
course to fly low over the boat. No blame was assigned Krueger for
his role in the wire strike.
The Associated Press now reports that it has obtained
recommendations from Captain Andrew Norris, an investigating
officer, which suggest the charges focus on alleged navigational
failures by Leone and tie those to the destruction of a helicopter
and death of two crew members. Norris opines, "It is in this focus,
and in making this tie, that I believe the charged offenses
A decision on whether to proceed with a court martial will be
made by Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, who is not bound by Norris's
finding. In the time since the accident, Leone recovered and was
cleared to retrain for a return to flight, but was assigned desk
duty while the case played out.
The case has been controversial due to the appearance of
scapegoating. Maintenance of the power line is officially the
responsibility of the US Coast Guard, and the line has taken down
two aircraft in the past, one in the late 1950s, and another in