Pilot error blamed for US crash that killed Irish marine

Army investigators find that flight crew disobeyed order by flying in dense fog off Florida

Sgt Liam Flynn (33), originally from Clane in Co Kildare, was killed on March 10th when the military helicopter he was travelling in crashed in a coastal area near Pensacola off Florida’s Panhandle. Photograph: Reuters

Sgt Liam Flynn (33), originally from Clane in Co Kildare, was killed on March 10th when the military helicopter he was travelling in crashed in a coastal area near Pensacola off Florida’s Panhandle. Photograph: Reuters

 

An investigation has found that pilot error caused a Black Hawk helicopter to crash off the Florida coast, killing an Irish member of the US Marines and 10 other military personnel.

Sgt Liam Flynn (33), originally from Clane in Co Kildare, was killed on March 10th when the military helicopter he was travelling in crashed in a coastal area near Pensacola off Florida’s Panhandle.

An investigation found the flight crew of the Louisiana Army National Guard Black Hawk UH-60 disobeyed a direct order by flying in thick fog and poor visibility in a high-risk night training exercise.

The crash killed all four flight crew and seven members of the US Marine Special Operations Command, the unit of which Sgt Flynn was a member.

The marines were involved in a training mission . The investigation report concluded that both helicopter pilots suffered from “spatial disorientation” flying in total darkness and thick fog, leading to loss of control of the aircraft.

After deciding to fly in lower cloud and poorer visibility than authorised, they failed to switch to flying by the aircraft’s instruments.

Following a failed attempt to engage the autopilot, the helicopter crashed in Santa Rosa Sound near Hurlburt Field, headquarters of the US Air Force’s special operations command, five minutes after taking off.

Sgt Flynn emigrated to New York in 2002 and joined the US Marine Corps in 2006. He served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife Destiny, daughter Leilani (1), parents Ann and Billy, and five sisters and two brothers.