Additional charge to be considered against Leone

The investigating officer for a hearing into last year’s fatal Coast Guard helicopter crash off the coast of Washington State says he’ll consider an additional charge of dereliction of duty against the crash’s sole survivor, Lieutenant Lance Leone.

Captain Andrew Norris is leading the Article 32 hearing, taking place this week in a courtroom at the Juneau Federal Building.

Norris was already investigating Leone for one count of dereliction for failing to navigate the helicopter to avoid hazards. Leone is also charged with destruction of government property, and negligently causing the deaths of two of his crewmates.

The new dereliction charge is for not following proper Crew Resource Management procedures. It follows testimony yesterday (Thursday) from Leone’s commanding officer, Air Station Sitka Commander Doug Cameron, who suggested Leone may have been reluctant to question the helicopter’s pilot-in-command, Lieutenant Sean Krueger. Cameron speculated that Leone deferred to Krueger, because of rank and experience.

Krueger died in the crash, but Leone is only being charged in the deaths of Aviation Maintenance Technicians Adam Hoke and Brett Banks.

The Article 32 hearing – similar to a grand jury proceeding in civilian court – began on Wednesday and is expected to wrap up today (Friday).

Norris will then make a recommendation to Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, commander of the 17th Coast Guard District in Alaska. Ostebo will decide whether to drop the charges, pursue discipline internally, or through a court martial.

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