A British coroner today released findings which conclude that mechanical failure caused a CH-46 Chinook to crash in the early hours of the Iraq war, not pilot disorientation as a US inquiry had previously ruled. Eight British Royal Marines and four U.S. air crew died in the crash--the first fatalities of the war.
Coroner Andrew Walker, whose specific job function is to investigate military deaths abroad, said today that "The aircraft was flying at low altitude in straight level flight when a runaway in both the differential airspeed hold actuators caused the aircraft to lose control and strike the ground"
A British board of inquiry had previously concluded that mechanical fault had caused the helicopter to plunge nose first into the ground, but according to The Guardian, British defense chiefs later overruled the board's conclusion and accepted the US explanation.
Though the US investigation reported that the pilot had become disoriented as a result of poor weather conditions, the BBC reports that some colleagues of the British service personnel told the inquest that conditions had been clear.
Solicitor Geraldine McCool, who represented some of the families, said the US inquiry findings "just did not fit in with the evidence".
Walker reported today that, based on the evidence available to him, there was "no evidence whatsoever" that pilot error, in the form of spatial disorientation, had been to blame.
Walker also used the press conference to again lambast the US for what he viewed as a lack of cooperation bordering on obstructionism, saying it was "unacceptable" the US had failed to release evidence about the incident.