Ex Air Force weather center head guilty of Black Hawk crash negligence

The former chief of Taiwan Air Force’s Weather Center recently received a two-year suspension from working in the public sector for gross negligence deemed partly responsible for a military chopper crash in 2020 that killed eight military officers, including the nation’s then top military commander, Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴).

 

Although the proceedings of the Disciplinary Court, under the Judicial Yuan, are confidential, an anonymous source revealed to CNA the punishment handed down to Jen I-wei (任亦偉) by the court, which is responsible for punishing civil servants.

 

Jen was chief of the weather center at the Air Force Weather Wing’s No. 8 Base when the Black Hawk crashed in the mountains of New Taipei City on Jan. 2, 2020.

 

The court’s ruling came after the government watchdog agency, the Control Yuan, in July of 2020 impeached Jen and Chou Shih-kai (周士凱), an officer at the same center, over negligence relating to the deadly crash.

 

Chou was not punished by the Disciplinary Court, citing insufficient evidence. The ruling can still be appealed.

 

According to the Control Yuan impeachment, the UH-60M helicopter, carrying 13 military personnel to a base in Dong’ao, Yilan County for a pre-Lunar New Year inspection, crashed in the mountains of New Taipei’s Wulai District on Jan. 2, 2020.

 

Eight of the passengers, including Shen, died in the crash.

 

An initial investigative report on the incident released in February 2020 ruled out mechanical failure as the cause.

 

It found that the crash was most likely caused by a combination of human factors and a sudden change in weather conditions in the mountains.

According to the Air Force, the pilot tried to pull up for visibility when he flew into cloud cover that formed suddenly in the area before the chopper crashed into the mountains.

 

The Air Force previously punished five senior Air Force officers, including an Air Force commander and deputy commander, over the crash.

 

The Control Yuan report showed that Jen, who was responsible for the pre-mission briefing that day, told the chopper pilots that their mission was good to go despite the fact that there were clouds near the mountains along the flight route.

 

In fact, Jen made the forecast after checking only visible cloud imagery earlier that day, failing to check near infrared imaging or true color imaging along the plight path, which would have provided the pilots with a more accurate forecast.

 

During interviews, Jen admitted to Control Yuan members that he did not check near infrared images, which was determined to be serious negligence.

 

Near infrared images on that day showed there were low layer clouds along the flight route which could lead to low visibility, according to the Control Yuan report.

 

Meanwhile, the Control Yuan said Chou was supposed to update the chopper pilots on the latest weather conditions along the route but did not do so, which should also be punished.

 

In response, the Air Force on Sunday said it respects the rulings handed down by the court, adding that it has taken a series of corrective measures since the Black Hawk crash two years ago to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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