Australian government guilty of Antarctic helicopter pilot's death

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-10 18:30:50|Editor: xuxin
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CANBERRA, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has been found guilty of two charges over the death of a helicopter pilot in Antarctica.

David Wood, 62, died in January 2016 after he fell into a crevasse during a fuel drop on Antarctica's Western Ice Shelf.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Industrial Court on Monday found the Commonwealth Environment Department guilty of two breaches of work health and safety laws.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 1.5 million Australian dollars (1.02 million U.S. dollars) in fines.

Following Wood's death Comcare, the commonwealth workers' compensation authority, brought criminal charges against the department and Wood's employer, Helicopter Resources.

Delivering his verdict, Acting Chief Magistrate Glenn Theakston said that the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) was responsible for ensuring Wood's safety after Comcare argued that the department could have taken five steps to minimise risk.

"The AAD was best placed to decide how projects and other operations could be safely conducted," Theakston said.

"This extended to where fuel cache sites should be located and what methods should be employed to assess the suitability of those sites before pilots were tasked to land and walk on those sites for the purpose of refuelling and/or collecting their sling hardware.

"The Commonwealth failed to comply with its health and safety duty."

Wood and Paul Sutton landed their helicopters on Jan. 11, 2016 without any aerial reconnaissance.

After delivering the fuel the pilots were returning to their helicopters when Sutton noticed Wood had gone missing.

Wood was rescued from the crevasse after four hours but died from hypothermia.

Helicopter Resources was cleared of any wrongdoing after Theakston found that the company could not have assessed the likelihood of crevasses at the site.

"There is no evidence that Helicopter Resources was aware, or ought to have been aware, of how satellite images may be used for the purpose of determining whether a remote site was more prone to crevassing than another site," he said.