Report Faults Air Controllers for Deadly Midair Collision

Nine Killed in Marine, Coast Guard accident

A new report is faulting air traffic control for the collision of a Coast Guard plane and a Marine helicopter last fall that killed nine.

"There were multiple ways to prevent this accident and all of the opportunities were missed," said Thaddeus Barsotti,  brother of the aircraft commander killed in the accident. "It was a colossal tragedy."

Barsotti's brother, Lt. Cmdr. Che J. Barnes died October 29, 2009 along with his crew aboard a C-130 based out of Sacramento.

Pentagon and U.S. military officials said four Marine helicopters were flying in formation from San Diego to San Clemente Island about dusk when the Coast Guard C-130 collided with the helicopter.  

A failure by Navy air traffic controllers to follow standard procedures contributed to the crash that killed seven Coast Guard members and two Marines, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard report released Tuesday said air traffic controllers failed to notify the pilot of one of its planes that four Marine helicopters were in the area. The Marine flyers were also unaware of the Coast Guard plane's presence.

"There is no definite cause of the crash, as you can tell," Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Foster said. "We have outlined some contributing factors that led to this tragedy. All the reports do agree that there was no unit or individual misconduct on the part of anyone."

"Unfortunately, the mishap was the product of a confluence of events, missed opportunities and ambiguous written guidance in an airspace where most aircraft fly under a 'see and avoid' regime," said U.S. Navy Lt. Aaron Kaikiel.

Lt. Cmdr. Barnes' family questions the report. "I think that when nine people die, someone needs to take responsibility," said Noah Barnes.

"There's an assumption there that if you're a pilot and the control tower is telling you to do something, that they are watching out for you and the entire area," said Barsotti. "It's obvious that the control tower did not do that task."
According to the report, there is no single reason for last October's crash or person to blame. It makes a series of recommendations to improve safety in the largely unregulated airspace.

The crew of the C-130 was based at Air Station Sacramento. Killed in the crash were:

  • Lt. Cmdr. Che J. Barnes, 35, Capay, Calif., aircraft commander
  • Lt. Adam W. Bryant, 28, Crewe, Va., co-pilot
  • Chief Petty Officer John F. Seidman, 43, Stockton, Calif., flight engineer
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Carl P. Grigonis, 35, Mayfield Heights, Ohio, navigator
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Monica L. Beacham, 29, Decaturville, Tenn., radio operator
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason S. Moletzsky, 26, Norristown, Penn., air crew
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Danny R. Kreder II, 22, Elm Mott, Texas, drop master

The AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter's two-man crew -- Major Samuel Leigh, 35, from Maine, and 1st Lt. Thomas Claiborne, 26, of Colorado -- was also killed.

Read the Complete Navy Report

Read the Complete Coast Guard Report

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