There are surely some of you who are not long-time readers and are thus not well-versed on the back-story. I’d rather we not take another lap on the spinning teacups. My stomach is only so strong. Should you need an introduction or refresher, my most recent post on the matter is located here. A synopsis of the most salient events…
After a wave swept a Navy helicopter and two pilots off the flight deck of a destroyer in the Red Sea last year, early reports described a freak accident caused by a “rogue wave.” But a recently released investigation points to the speed of the ship as it changed course, and the admiral overseeing the report has faulted the ship’s commander for the accident.
Navy pilots Lt. Cmdr. Landon L. Jones, 35, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan S. Gibson, 32, died after their MH-60S helicopter broke its chains and slid off the flight deck of the USS William P. Lawrence on the afternoon of Sept. 22, 2013, the result of a large wave hitting the aircraft as the ship rolled violently. Both men were still inside the aircraft when it plunged overboard.
In a 10-page assessment of the investigation, which was released in April and recently made public by the Navy, Harris faulted a decision by the Lawrence’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Jana A. V, to turn the ship immediately after the helicopter landed on the flight deck. Combined with the ship’s speed, the move put the vessel into rough “quartering seas,” he said, causing it to roll as large waves hit the deck.
“There was time to rectify the situation by simply reducing speed after taking (the helicopter) aboard,” Harris wrote. “[A] significant reduction in speed, thereby creating a more stable platform, could have been achieved in seconds.”
The admiral promised “appropriate administrative action” for V. The former CO is now serving in Coronado, California.
The Navy did take “appropriate administrative action” on CDR V by screening her for major command. I’ve dispensed administrative action many, many times. The recipients never smiled.
Although I can’t say for sure, I’m confident there are still some card-carrying members of the “this was an unfortunate event and sometimes bad things just happen” crowd. If you are one of them, I will jumble the story in an effort to give it new life and find a way to reach you.
Imagine that you are a married man. Your wife, and the mother of your children, is a devoted triathlete, among other things. She is a gifted athlete in dogged pursuit of a new personal record at an upcoming event. Because the bike is her weakest leg, she bought a road bike she uses on group rides with other women to push herself harder.
It’s Tuesday, which is hill day. The morning is graced by a light sprinkle that is expected to be no worse than moderate rainfall at any point in the day. Still, it’s rain, and that will have to figure into the aggressiveness of the ride.
The spoke-sisters set out for their training session, taking the appropriate precautions that are second nature to them. They have lights and reflective clothing, and they ride in a group so it is easier to see them.
Coming in the opposite direction is a tractor-trailer truck. The driver is operating his truck at a safe-speed, even considering the wet roads, until he gets a call from his boss. The boss urges him to drive faster, telling him that the company gets a bonus if the truck arrives before 9 PM. Although it jeopardizes the safe arrival of his haul, the truck driver does not tell his boss that driving faster will be dangerous. Either by accepting the increased risk or by being blind to it, the driver gently depresses the accelerator.
The wet roads force the truck wide on a downhill blind turn, where it carefully extracts the outer-most bike-rider in the pack, killing her instantly. Knowing what he has done, the truck driver stops immediately and returns to the scene. Your wife’s fellow riders have already phoned for Emergency Medical Services. Crest-fallen, the truck driver calls his boss to explain the details of the horrific accident.
Your phone is lighting up with vague details of a bike accident. Someone is badly hurt. Rather than jump to any conclusions or promulgate bad information, everyone is patient. Except the trucking company. They post the story on Facebook while expressing their condolences for your wife’s death. That’s how you were notified.
Understanding that your wife will never come back, and that your kids will not grow up to know their mother, you do what you can to pick up the pieces and move forward. There are good days and bad. More bad days than good. On the worst of those bad days, you wonder what ever became of the truck driver. He never even called. You know he didn’t kill your wife on purpose and so you don’t want revenge. That doesn’t mean you don’t wonder.
That’s when you discover that the truck driver was not only retained in the company, he was actually selected for a more prominent position in it. In this more prominent position, he will not only keep driving trucks, but he will also supervise a great number of other truck drivers and be responsible for their performance and safety. Soon thereafter, you learn that the promotion was approved by the President of the trucking company and received a stamp of authenticity from the US Department of Transportation. All that awaits is the pay raise.
That’s where we are now.
Do you still think that bad things just happen? I don’t. Not in this case, anyway.
The contrarians here use two words. Random. Unlucky. I have two words of my own. Offensive. Disrespectful.
The FAA, hardly known for being efficient and succinct, offers the following guidance in its Federal Aviation Regulations to pilots entering turbulent air: slow down. It really is that simple. I suspect it applies equally well to seagoing vessels.