Inquiry into the deaths of two Special Operations soldiers finalised
1 August 2013
Defence has finalised an inquiry into an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helicopter crash in Afghanistan on 30 August 2012 which claimed the lives of two Australian Special Operations Task Group soldiers.
Lance Corporal (LCPL) Mervyn McDonald and Private (PTE) Nathanael Galagher from the 2nd Commando Regiment were killed when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. An ISAF aircrewman was also wounded in the incident.
In the early morning of 30 August 2012 (local Afghan time) a force element of the Australian Special Operations Task Group was involved in a mission in Helmand Province with Afghan National Security Forces and other ISAF elements.
As with all Australian combat deaths, an Inquiry Officer was appointed to examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of LCPL McDonald and PTE Galagher. The Inquiry Officer found that the pilots were attempting to land the helicopter in the mission area when they lost situational awareness. The crash was the result of flight errors combined with environmental conditions. There was no evidence that mechanical failure or enemy action contributed to the incident.
The Inquiry Officer made six recommendations in his report, all of which have been accepted and are being implemented by Defence. Five recommendations relate to operational matters, none of which caused the crash. The other recommendation was that a Commission of Inquiry into this incident was not warranted.
The aircraft involved in this incident was an ISAF helicopter. Two parallel ISAF investigations were conducted in addition to the Australian inquiry. An Air Accident Investigation looked at the aircraft's airworthiness and the other investigation, similar to an Australian Inquiry Officer Inquiry, examined the circumstances surrounding the incident. An Australian Defence Force representative from the Directorate of Defence Aviation and Air Force Safety attended the Air Accident Investigation and assisted the Australian Inquiry Officer with his inquiry.
The families of LCPL McDonald and PTE Galagher have been briefed on the findings of the Australian inquiry and received copies of the Inquiry Officer report.
The Minister for Defence considered advice from the Chief of the Defence Force, the wishes of the families, and the public interest in the release of the Report and has decided not to release the Australian Inquiry Officer report.
Defence offers its deepest sympathy to the families of LCPL McDonald and PTE Galagher. Their service, dedication and professionalism which were in the highest traditions of the Australian Army will never be forgotten.
Defence asks that media respect the privacy of the families at this time.
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999