Inquiry Officer's report into the death of Private Timothy Aplin, Private Benjamin Chuck and Private Scott Palmer
14 October 2011
The Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin AO, today released the Inquiry Officer's report into the death of Private Timothy Aplin,
Private Benjamin Chuck and Private Scott Palmer who were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on 21 June 2010.
The three soldiers from the Sydney based 2nd Commando Regiment were part of a Special Operations Task Group element conducting a disruption operation against insurgents with Afghan and Coalition Forces.
At 3.39 am Afghan time on day two of the operation, four US UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were transporting personnel into the Shah Wali Kot region of Khandahar Province.
During the final approach to the landing zone, one of the helicopters carrying 10 Australian soldiers and US personnel crashed into a slight embankment in open desert terrain.
The impact caused the helicopter to roll and the fuselage to catch fire. Private Aplin and Private Palmer were killed instantly. Private Chuck was pronounced dead from his wounds shortly after arrival at the Role 3 Medical Facility in Khandahar.
"There was a heroic and genuine attempt to resuscitate Private Chuck, but his injuries were not survivable," Air Marshal Binskin said.
The Australian Inquiry Officer accepted a United States investigation that found the primary cause of this helicopter crash was a lack of aircrew coordination during the approach to the designated landing zone.
The crew lost situational awareness of their rate of descent and impacted the ground with little or no prior warning.
The investigation also found that all US crew members had extensive experience flying with night vision goggles, as well as in a combat environment.
There is no evidence of any Australian personnel failing in the performance of their duties.
Air Marshal Binskin commended the courage and professionalism of the Australian and US servicemen on board the other helicopters who provided medical assistance and security.
"These men were confronted with a horrifying situation - with their comrades, many of whom were still trapped inside the burning helicopter, calling out for help.
"There is no doubt their actions in the minutes immediately after the crash saved lives."
A civilian interpreter and seven Australian Commandos were wounded in the accident.
The ADF continues to provide medical treatment and support to six of these men who are undergoing rehabilitation and one soldier who has returned to full time work.
The Vice Chief of the Defence Force acknowledged the delay in publicly releasing this report.
"The Chief of the Defence Force has apologised to the families for the delay in releasing the inquiry report and I echo his regret for the additional distress this has caused the families of the three commandos killed in the accident," Air Marshal Binskin said.
The Vice Chief of the Defence Force said a number factors to the delay in releasing the report.
"An inquiry into a fatality requires careful consideration and the inquiry report has also required extensive and ongoing consultation with the United States Government.
"However, it is clear that insufficient resources and priority have been afforded to processing of the inquiry reports," Air Marshal Binskin said.
The Minister for Defence has directed that Defence provide a full and detailed explanation of the delays to him and the Prime Minister and to provide advice on steps it is taking to ensure delays like this do not occur in the future this will be done very shortly.
The Minister for Defence has accepted the Inquiry Officer's recommendations related to improving training and capability support for Disaster Victim Identification, mortuary affairs training and casualty reporting procedures.
The Australian Defence Force Investigative Service is conducting a review into mortuary affairs.
The Inquiry Officer recommended that a Commission of Inquiry into this incident is not warranted
For further information:
A transcript of Air Marshal Binskin's speech is available at:
An unclassified version of the Inquiry Officer report is available at:
Defence Media Operations 02 6127 1999