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Inquest scheduled into helicopter crash deaths of workers near Tweed

Inquest scheduled into helicopter crash deaths of workers near Tweed

TORONTO — The regional supervising coroner for Ontario’s East Region, Kington Office has announced the date for an inquest into the deaths of four men in December 2017 when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed while in transit to a transmission project staging site in rural Tweed, Ont. 

The inquest into the deaths of Kyle Shorrock, 27, Jeffrey Howes, 26, James Baragar, 39 and Darcy Jansen, 26, will be held June 5. Dr. David Eden will be the presiding officer. Jai Dhar and Kristin Smith will be inquest counsel.

A report released by the Transportation and Safety Board of Canada (TSBC) in 2019 stated a Hydro One Networks Inc. Airbus helicopter equipped with an external platform was transporting a crew of powerline technicians between a staging area and transmission towers in an area located eight nautical miles north-northeast of Tweed.

Approaching noon on Dec. 17, the pilot picked up a crew of three near the bottom of a tower for a return flight to the staging area. It was common practice for powerline technicians to attach tool bags and other small items to the external platform for flights to and from worksites, stated the report. The technicians attached a few items to the platform while boarding the helicopter but one empty canvas supply bag with an attached carabiner that was being carried on the platform was not adequately secured before the helicopter departed for the return flight to the staging area, it was determined.

When the helicopter was less than a kilometre from the staging area, the canvas bag separated from the platform and struck the helicopter’s tail rotor, causing significant damage, severe imbalance and intense vibration.

Shortly after, while the pilot was attempting to land, the helicopter’s tail rotor, tail rotor gearbox and vertical fin separated from the helicopter. The report found the helicopter became uncontrollable and collided with terrain. The powerline technicians were unrestrained and became separated from the helicopter, either slightly before or during the impact, and received fatal injuries from contact with the helicopter or the surrounding terrain. The pilot was also fatally injured on impact.

The report found the helicopter’s rear seats were equipped with four-point detachable safety belts, each consisting of a lap strap and an automatic locking shoulder harness, but two of the three passenger lap straps were unfastened. 

An inquest into the deaths is mandatory under the Coroners Act. A release stated the inquest is expected to last 15 days and hear from approximately 10 witnesses. The inquest jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths from occurring in similar circumstances.

Members of the public can view the proceedings at this link.

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