Calls for accountability after botched Fox Glacier investigation

Calls for accountability after botched Fox Glacier investigation

There are calls for heads to roll over the botched investigation into the 2010 Fox Glacier air crash.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) won't apologise to victims' families, even though they got the cause of the accident wrong and allowed crucial evidence to be buried.

"The Commission does not need to apologise," says TAIC chief commissioner Helen Cull. "It has done everything appropriately."

Everything was apparently done appropriately – but that's not what TAIC's own review states. It identifies a string of blunders, and the original cause of the crash – that the plane was out of balance – has now been completely discounted.

"There's been a total lack of accountability," says Labour's transport spokesperson Phil Twyford. "[Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss] has been running for cover and we have a chief commissioner who doesn't even think she needs to apologise for what's been a complete fiasco."

The lawyer who acted for the skydive company says the review shows grave errors were made, and that should be accepted.  

"I felt there was a real lack of real acceptance that some major mistakes were made and I feel TAIC have tried to minimise the very significant changes that have been made to the report," says Skydive NZ lawyer Garth Gallaway.

The mistakes were exposed following an investigation by TV3's 3D programme, after significant parts of the wreckage were dug up – parts that had been buried just four days after the crash.

"What's good is that through excellent investigative journalism the findings have been turned over," says Mr Gallaway.

It's not the first time the Commission has bungled an investigation.

In 2001, a helicopter crashed killing three men. The Commission was later slammed by a coroner as being "secretive and unhelpful".

Engineer Mark Saunders was blamed by the Commission but later cleared in a new investigation.

He says the failings at Fox Glacier are all too familiar.

"I just couldn't believe it. I thought here we go again," says Air Repair Taranaki chief engineer Mark Saunders. "Nothing has been learnt after all these years, nothing."

Engineer Chris Lind worked on the re-investigation into the 2001 crash. Again, in that case, evidence was buried.

"What quality plan did they have in place when they were following this inspection and investigation because there appears to be absolutely none," says Mr Lind. "They are doing what they did in 2001, making the same mistakes."

Labour wants the Commission independently reviewed.

"The minister needs to tell the chief commissioner that her job is on the line," says Mr Twyford.

Mr Foss still maintains he has confidence in TAIC, but says he'll be meeting with the agency's bosses next week and will raise the issue of making an apology.

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