« Reveal

The Military's Deadliest Helicopter

2019-01-19 | 🔗

How did one helicopter become the deadliest aircraft in the US military? To find out, Reveal partners with Investigative Studios, the production arm of the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Don’t miss out on the next big story. Get the Weekly Reveal newsletter today.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey. It is your favorite host in all of pod custom. Now for the rest of the year, I'm gonna be asking you to join us by becoming a member of reveal reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads telling stories that matter for more than three years now reveal has been fighting a lawsuit. That's been jeopardizing our very existence of restoring we about an organization called planet aid. Our story raises serious questions about whether international aid was actually reaching the people. It was intended to help and what's more, our story was truthful and we stand by it. We believe it's our duty to fight attacks like this, but fighting a lawsuit comes at a huge costs, are legal fees alone totalled more than seven million dollars? Luckily, we have pro bono legal support to help our in house counsel, but it still takes significant resources, resources that should be used to do more public service journalists. This kind of investigative
It takes time and it cost money. If you believe in the work, we do the absolute best way to support us is by becoming a member of reveal to do it just text. The word reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven standard data rates apply and you can text stop or cancel at any time also all new members who donate at least five dollars a month. We get our facts, t shirt again. Just text reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven and all you who already support our work. I would offer a deep sincere thanks. We can't do this work without being willing afforded twenty twenty. We have big things plan, so, let's go to some good work together. From the centre for investigative reporting and p r ex this is reveal a mallet. Freezing January more twenty. Forty and maybe see, Dragon Helicopter was on
training mission over the Atlantic when a fire broke out in the cabin. Second, later it slammed into the ocean. We are continuing breaking coverage involving the Navy charmer crash just to bring you up to speed. Five sailors were on board, one died, another is still missing and other three still The husband we're covering one of the injured sailors died at the hospital. The body of another was recovered days later. Bringing the death toll to three must have any this particular helicopter as a sign that they h M fourteen squadron based out of Naval Station Norfolk. It's just under one hundred feet, long twenty eight feet tall it when I'm just scrolling through Facebook. I see a bunch of mutual friends talking about this helicopter crash insane rest in peace, Brian Collins, uniting like believe it at first traceability,
What the high school with Brian Collins, one of the sailors killed in the crash. I read the news stories ever linking to and then I just quickly unifier off couple Facebook messages to our close friends and said: is this for real and they said, yeah so at that point I started getting in touch with me. On finding out what really happened. Jason, O Brien, grew up in the mountains of the northern California trucking. Down the highway from little after graduation Jason went off to study journalism at the University of California. Berkeley Brian enlisted in the Navy was extremely driven and motivated and He started working out a lot and going across FED and trying to get in the physical shape for his training, originally wanted to be a seal but yeah, so he basically devoted himself to this two weeks after the accident, Jason Joint, hundreds of others it but your high school for Brien's Memorial service, it was cold snow
it was on the football field. They did at twenty. One gun salute and just it was the whole community. There was there have shocked and is sort of like a really on Fourchan, High school reunion, it wasn't just old friends on head some, Ryan's fellow sailors showed up. Jason was perplexed by what they told him. They were talking about it like it was unavoidable crash and that there is no reason at it should have happened. In that sort of triggered a feeling in me of residence, this just being a random tragic accident that there there was something going on here that was worth looking into and it was worth doing some reporting on as grad student Jason connected with Zachary Staffer, a filmmaker at the universities investigated Boarding programme are good journalism, and certainly investigative journalism begins with a good question. Jason's for he began with a question what caused my friend to die in this helicopter crash? Why did it go down
several months later the question became. What else can this helicopter explain? What can and tell us Zachary and Jason, decided to launch an investigation and make fill the project would end up taking meals, three years in one of the most daunting aspects, early on was that you couldn't really get any but rosy answer. Out of Navy public affairs they are telling you that every it's fine, but then you ve got always people on the inside telling you things are terrible and people scared to fly people are refusing to fly. These are people that lost three of their friends people they worked with every day and they want to know why they died in this helicopter crash. But as we went about our reporting, we realise that it was my bigger than one crash. There is a much bigger problem this week with teaming up with investigative reporting programme to look at how one fleet of helicopters became the deadliest in the: U S, military. Jason begins with the story of two sailors on duty
January morning, We're doing Boon remembers most vividly was the biting bone, chilling cold, framing below freezing, it was almost unbearable hold. It was just brutal Dylan was a young air crewman assigned to a sea dragon squadron the same. One of my friend Brian at Naval Station Norfolk, it's the world's largest Navy base sitting on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay near where brains into the Atlantic, Then coming right off the ocean on the fly lies just as if someone you feel I informed the coldest places on earth. It was so cold that the helicopters were partially frozen. Chris hum it was a mechanic in the same Sea Dragon Squadron. It didn't take ten second. Look in aircraft under completely confirm absolutely we can't this is crazy. We can't fly with these. So after cancelling the days mission, the squad
move the sea dragons off the flight line and into the giant hangar to warm up, and we put heat lamps near them to just turn warm up the areas and that was it for the day. So would give it another go next day. The image fifty three easy dragon is the largest helicopter in the? U S military, it's about a hundred feet long and carry more than fifty fully equipped troops. Inside is a maze of wires pipes, engages doing says a thin. Film of Greece always covered the floor. We leave. I draw fluid Alla time. Slogan was, if it wasn't making it wasn't working with nearly four hundred. Hours on the aircraft. Don't learn, t dragon always needed lots of special care just to get it off the ground. That's because it isn't just big and powerful. It's also a relic of the cold war. Long past its prime. They are decrepid decaying. For our the their own, I have
so many nights where you have cried and bled sweat and cost at this helicopter. She never wants to fly. The morning of January Eighth Chris came in really to make sure the choppers had thought out, and then we decide to bring words out one at a time as we were and start getting ready for launches and once we started firing ends up. It initially appeared that Everything was going right, earnings like it was forced to look. You know Chris finished his final. Checks inside the aircraft. Brian was on board, along with doing boon, crew chief justice Godfrey. A pilot, Sean Snyder and the pilot West Van Dorn Chris gave West the green light. I slept on the back and a turnaround I got out of the carpet and walked off the aircraft and flew away. The dark, green silhouette of the sea dragon stood out against the blue winter sky was about twenty.
Miles from shore and a hundred feet off the surface on a routine mine, sweeping exercise with a long cable, the helicopter pulled it. Or Peter Shape device through the water, just as it had done many times before is just a regular training mission. I guess for some, my anger life. Because it could have been avoided should have been avoided. Doing members moving closer to the front of the cabin to warm up. I felt some heat. Can. I in turn around and saw that we had flames in smoke in the cabin was like a flame. There were those just eating everything in its path oak filled the cabin and cockpit as the helicopter Corinne toward the Ocean and by the time you know you're. Just wishing for the fire to go out and it's not an earnest just trying get some air and he can and in a weird sadistic away: you're you're thankful that it finally hit something because
it's either you're gonna drown or the fires can be put out by the water and think that was those your escape is a Dylan says he woke up underwater. She Russell himself free from the aircraft and kept to the surface. Otherwise forty degrees and hear here, screams and distance didn't from who wound up near another crew member eventually The two fired off a smoke grenade to signal for help the houses along died, the longest. Forty five minutes of my life Rescue helicopters rushed to the crash site. Chris Homey was I the hangar doing paperwork. Another mechanic opened the door and told him a sea dragon was in the water. It was just out after he had cleared the aircraft for flight and then you just start panic. You know you ve really start running through Ali scenarios. Like you know, man did. I put that back on the right way or
there are really verify there was an ice in there and you know you did it right. You just you dont know, because it's a crash cover the crash into the ocean on a day, it's ten below zero, and you have this mental picture of these men freezing and the coldest day the coldest day. Good afternoon. Everyone I'm Captain Todd, Flannery, Commander helicopter, see combat Wing Atlantic today is definitely been tough day on all of us. That, after The navy held a press conference on the vast concrete flight line. It wasn't far from it the sea dragon had launched earlier in the day, Captain Flannery Navies top like Opera commander in Norfolk, stood before the group of reporters in a green flight suit. His face was somber this point like to bring you up to speed on what we know once pillars died as a result of this morning's crash. Three sailors are being treated at Centauri general in Norfolk,
It's an helicopters were searching for a missing sailor. His body wouldn't be recovered for another week. Shadows crept across the flight line as reporters fired off questions. Plenary wouldn't speculate on the cause of the crash and said the Navy was launching a full investigation. Thank you. No, I don't. I do now. While the Navy reassured the public that the sea dragons we're safe, another scene was unfolding at the hospital Brian, had been killed instantly on impact and arrived without a pulse. Don't boon. Ingesting Godfrey were unstable condition, pilot West Van Dorn was fighting for his life West, his wife, Nicole rushed to the hospital after an anonymous collar tipped off. She had heard any official details from the Navy in the waiting room. She noticed me
he Chaplin's in the hallway. That's when she started to get desperate. So I asked the hospital a stranger to come back in, and I just I loved her and me As I said, I I see these chaplains walking pie. I dont know what they're here for up and told at my husband is in surgery, but God help you If he's near me- and I don't want to see how many times she came back a minute or two later, she said, come with me- the hospital staff pulled up chair for coal in the operating room. She watched a team of doctors. Work on West ass. He lay on a table. I should have been terrifying. I guess What I saw, but I just for some reason. I just looked at him and I just smiled at him from his hair. Looked perfect. It looked like he had just
been to the barbershop a body he may get closer to him, and there was a there's just a straight line on his face. I don't know where the fire came from, but the whole left side was burnt, as if you like, turned his head It wasn't just the birds. The impact with the ocean had severed two of west, his fingers and his right foot here, also severely hypothermic, so yeah, let me hold his hand, only my haven't his chest, and then I saw them. It was a neurologist because hello flashlight in his hand, he could see him as he shook. The light was the size and then he kind of looked at the other doctors, and that's when I knew Wes was twenty nine, he left behind me call and there too young children.
As Nicole grieved, she couldn't stop thinking about things western told her before the crash He'd had serious concerns about the sea dragging squadron for a long time. He thought poor leadership was into sloppy maintenance, and that was putting crews at risk overtime and especially when mishaps became more frequent and people started getting hurt, That's when we started to become more sure of his concerns and more sure of himself in countless dinner conversations, at their house near the base westward tell Nicole about his frustrations. She said Esther that he start keeping records so that when he got to be or senior. He could actually do something about it I remember, sitting on flora, this living on less than a week after the accident in house.
All of everything that was said to mean the precious all just colliding my mind and I gotta find that suffer gunfights finest us. It's crazy tear offer Us Nicole funding pattered green note book the by barely holding together west carried it around with him at work, and I opened and the second pages that firstly pages there's no no accountability for bad maintenance, his writing Emphatic big letters underlined it takes up the whole page you, can senses frustration. He was really bothered by the fact that any time he observed thing that was not being done right. He would try to talking superior about it. It wouldn't get anywhere on western computer. You can also found a memo. He wrote his superiors it alleged squadron. Commanders quote cheated doctored numbers and reports and were otherwise dishonest and reporting of the chain of command.
None of this lined up with the military's version of what was happening in the squadron and what led to the crash. I was my husband was in a man CAN hero who died due what he loved doing and made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to make need a very messy situation, and I wanted the mess answer, because that's the truth lies, get closer to the truth, Nicole, reached out to someone outside the military. A reporter, nay, my kicks in by Michael. Multiple articles in the local paper, the Virginian pilot about problems with the Sea dragon Fleet years of neglect by the Navy, haphazard maintenance, high crash rates to Nicole like stories, echoed the concern she'd heard so many times from West. He wasn't just accepting the facts, and by the Navy at face value. It was inquisitive toxic
maybe he's willing to. If there's truth to this break them old, want. Someone whose professional enough to not chase, a story that isn't there, but if there is truth to it, I also want someone who's, not afraid, to dig deeper late one evening I got a text message from a number I didn't recognize and it was. The whole Van Dorn telling me she's been reading my stories that she has things she wanted to tell me that I would be interested in nuclear was telling MIKE my husband expressed to me before he died who is really worried about things going on in the squadron, any cap, copious records, notes and Don't know if I have any thing, but I also need a place to bring it all. The texts sent shows up my spine. It's almost like it. It's a tragedy. It's it's! It's a guy who sees a problem committed to trying to fix it
and the problem kills. Him was his concerns about the sea dragon work just detailed in documents. They also come up in this audio recording. There was leaked Nicole, you said it was standard. West is talking to people naval investigators, looking into an earlier, see dragon crash. And he uses the opportunity to share some of his wider concerns about the fleet. You can hear West thumping the two the boy I seen says that the root of the problem is not with junior enlisted sailors, their hardworking young kids. They wanted you write daily start out. But they are only going to do is ask them. He says the real problem is higher up the chain of com senior enlisted seems like they don't really care about it. I think that's huge issue in arguing our squadron West, not the poor.
Your ship extended to the officers, no checks and balances the author leadership nonexistent in he knew the consequences could be disastrous anyway. Care about. What's happened on that aircraft should be me and the other points I think, makes US good morning and getting it have something terrible happen if it doesn't go right, eight months after the crash in Norfolk, the Navy its investigation. They held another press conference I was there, along with my kicks him by Captain Todd, energy led reporters into the cabin of a sea dragon to explain what had happened. So the fire took place here in the report tells you there was a fire of all that happened. You can see how close to the cockpit it is relatively compared to the size of the helicopter,
The navy concluded that it all started with a simple plastics tie. The tiny nylon strap secured a bundle of wires near a metal fuel to flight after flight under constant vibration. The zip tied chafed the insulation on the wires and read the hole in the fuel line, the leaked fuel ignited in the cabin and because I feel I must pressurized fuel continued to feed the fire. Where was it then dont know specifically, but this is the fuel to hear Navies talking points were all about the chafing that cause the crash, but MIKE, and I wanted to fall upon. West Van Dorn concerns things like dysfunction at the squadron in cutting corners on maintenance. At one point, the captain seems to acknowledge some of these problems that way the business had been known. Ass may not have been one hundred percent, but now we are doing maintenance fly the book all the time, but then he back petals
It might be very careful on how that's interpreted it wasn't that we were doing by the book maidens beforehand, its there, others a renewed effort and emphasis to ensure that there are any questions that the young, the youngster, power to go to the supervisor and say I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to go. Instead of just trying to figure out by themselves faced with grieving families positive journalists. The navy was saying: don't worry, everything's under control. This was just an isolated incident, but my can I suspected that wasn't the whole story throughout the press conference it became clear in was repeated again and again that no but he was at fault. You know, wasn't the pilots fault, they were blinded by smokin fire in the helicopter flat We started to say it was you know, poor maintenance, but then backtrack. Said it knew this wasn't. Maintenance is followed in the past. He had talked about the name need not fully funding this aircraft, but but no its, not their fault and at the end,
No one's taken responsibility for what happened, nobody's at fault and what we found. And is that is absolutely not the case. The navy didn't want to talk about it, but they were warning about the sea dragons going back decades. There were opportunities to fix this and to make changes in there. Ignored- that's next on reveal from the search for investigating reporting and pay are ex, this is reveal a ballot. Twenty fourteen, be. Helicopter crash that killed three sailors off the coast of Virginia was caused by chafed electrical wires and meet fuel tubes.
Official investigation found no one at fault, but filmmakers Jason, Valentino Zachary staffer from the investigative reporting programme had a lot of wanting to questions J. Then just told us about the crash and its immediate aftermath now, Zachary picks up story in Norfolk Virginia were driving into Norfolk with reporter. My kicks in by he's in his thirties and covers the military for the Virginian Pilot Newspaper and we ve teamed up to dig deeper into the causes of the crash. U S! Aircraft carriers base in Norfolk, half of our fighter jets are here. Half of Navy seals are based here. It's a Navy town covering the military. The paper from my perspective is big deal it's it's. The job
on our way to the newspapers office. We pass destroyers and aircraft carriers docked in shipyards. Ships are part of the city scape with mass cranes. Towers, mixing with office buildings. It's as if Norfolk in the Navy are one. Because of that identity also like when, when you have a comparable crashes, lots of people relate to it in something. Someone in uniform military is harmed. That community is just plugged into that at schools at churches everywhere Why should the Navy connection continues in the newsroom front? Page military stories and photos cover the walls. My takes us into a conference room and pulls out a box. This is what we the accumulated, and a year and a half on this. I guess he opens binder
full of Navy investigations. Court files, company records internal maintenance documents and more we got some of the documents through the Freedom of Information ACT others came from the coal Van Dorn. The widow of Pilot West Van Dorn still we're leaked by act, Zuni sailors and Marines. It's amazing about this is the fact that were receiving this kind of information. Multiple and numerous enlisted and officers are reaching out to us with accurate information Josh's. You were there this fire. I guess Jason MIKE and I started by investigating the crash of a navy image. Fifty three helicopter, the sea dragon, but as we kept reporting, we There were also issues with a similar model used by the Marines, the siege fifty three, the super stallion. The documents we had obtained showed a history of accidents going back decades,
This was in two thousand five of the coastal region: yeah. They had something with the main gearbox and caused them to have to ditch the aircraft at sea. It signals ITALY and had killed for people with rights. We got from the Navy spreadsheets with details on every accident. Two hundred and fifty three was involved in. We added up the fatalities and found something startling. One hundred and thirty two people have been to on the helicopter, since it hid the fleet in nineteen eighties, relish the flight hours, it's become the deadliest aircraft in the: U S, military and here's another thing all those people they died in accidents. The helicopter has never been shot down and combat. The fifty three is one of the oldest helicopters in the military might
as the Navy had started to come up with a plan in the nineteen nineties to retire its version and then when it plan goes out the window, it's kind of like therein, limbo they're, just cooperating. We still need em back the resources have already been trimmed back. They were so what to be replaced and worked, but funds had already started flowing to newer defence programmes took away money to cover spare parts and maintenance for the Sea dragon sailors. Unless they were under constant pressure to keep the helicopters in the air when this culture of just get it done kind of took cod. They can always turn into a flight. Our first safety second kind of a thing Navy mechanic, Chris Honey, who we heard from earlier says he experienced those pressures first hand. We blatantly were told over and over and over day after day after day. This is what you're going to do. Don't worry about this,
its above. Your pay great. It don't ask about things, you don't know these are. We taking care of at higher levels and do your job after the twenty four team crash, the Navy ordered inspections of all fifty three for signs of chafing weeks later the helicopters were flying again, everything was ok according to the military, but a confidential internal source sent MIKE documents showing something very different: the wiring fuel I'm problems hadn't been fixed, the very kind that caused the crash. These aircraft were still flying and nothing had changed. We published a story with that the information in the Virginian pilot and caught the attention of Marine Corps General John Davis. I got up in them, about a cup of coffee and read this article on like ok, we have a problem. I called my Navy counterparts and said we have a problem here. We need to get it fixed at that
I'm General Davis. Was the Marines top aviator he's now retired the only senior military officer who agreed to speak with us on tape, wives, try not to lose. Pleasure, but I was I was unhappy I was concerned for hey we're good, too, were not so good and so I wanted facts. I wanna dad. I wanna quickly Davis grounded the fleet, The Navy and Marines ordered up a new round of inspections once again, crews spent months looking for signs of chafing but the problem went beyond chafing. It had to do with the wiring itself the electrical fires were wrapped with a type of insulation called captain. This is a pace. Captain insulator. Why? While making our film came across this ninety. Ninety nine BBC documentary captain his best when young featherweight the thickness of
about three human has frame resistant, tough. That was the Good NEWS is the ban. The captain insulation can explode like a firework if it's eastern robs against metal. Davy had known about the dangers of captain for decades, even when the Fifty three helicopter was still just a prototype, Captain installation burn to across the fifty three mm Facturar Sikorsky had actually recommended replacing Kapton as early as one thousand nine hundred and eighty one, but the Navy declined saying it would be too costly. They did come up with a plan eventually, but kapton was still on the sea dragon but crashed into the Atlantic in twenty fourteen. The Navy's investigation into that crash never mentions cap gone, but we got
the maintenance log for the helicopter. It shows that Some of the wiring had been replaced, but not at the sight of the explosion. I asked General Davis about it. Why would if still in that image, fifty three the crash and are now? I know I don't know there the. Why don't I didn't know about captain wiring problems per se. I knew we had a plan to replace our captain, during by two thousand and nineteen, so why the long delays in replacing camped wiring, sir, thing? The Navy's own documents called the highest safety risk in the fleet and how could such clear threat? the sailors and Marines become such a low priority in Much of answers I reached out to military analysed, chuck spinning. He spent more than twice five years at the Pentagon, the kind of sexual,
that you are seen with the helicopters is basically a predictable consequence of screwed up priority system, not not predictable. Inevitable and when you continue this behaviour into the future, it basically boils down to mouse aforethought back in the early eighties spinning was something, a budget bad ass, he grace the for a time magazine after testifying to Congress about how the Pentagon was miss. Allocating I e wasting money. Spinning as the main priority for the Pentagon is to spend more money on fancy new weapons, but to do that, military reduces money for what it calls readiness glamorous things like training spare parts, maintenance and repairs and Maybe one of those cutbacks was saying We can no longer within it Dwyer. I talk to general
Davis about what he thought contributed to the poor. Readiness of the fifty three readiness is first and foremost, and green corridors and this year's fifty three was not ready It was not ready to do other things we needed to do that fact and were put it in this. That it was in my think, one. We have somebody challenges inside the Department of Defense, the monies being pulled from our department, defence budgets, the same time or for deploying fighting very challenging environment out, therefore, statement. Some people say that The cost of new weapons are concerned, taking away resources from programmes like the fifty three you gave them. I don't mind I think that you gotta a balance. It can't you say we're just gonna here, the old and not do the news he asked about set that is not the way chucks Binny sees it. You do
the modern eyes you have to support the fleet in being, but you can't get there from here doing business as usual, to spend any business as usual means the almost constant ratcheting up of the Pentagon budget. Full of promises about how the sir says will spend money on readiness, operations and maintenance, but he says those budget increases always seem to get spent in a way that benefits powerful people in the defence establishment. That's the kind of craziness we ve gotten ourselves. It here it is ready to very complex situate, yeah, no shit, it's making love people rich. That's the key point: a lot of people are benefiting from this lunacy. Everybody wins, except, of course, the soldier, the bringing into the spear and the taxpayer
when we meet back up with Chris Humming, he's at his House and Virginia Beach. Theirs flag flying on the front porch a lovely I come from a big Navy family there's chiefs in my family, there's mats energies in my family. That's all I wanted to do. Was just make everybody proud Chris, is surrounded by bubble, wrap in cardboard boxes. He's packing up his house prepping for a move back Tennessee politician on just a mechanic who saw things being done the wrong way, and I tried to voice it, and I think that a whole has a lot to do with, with with meeting pushed out. Chris wasn't at fault for the twenty fourteen accident, but he struggled knowing
He was the one who told pilot West Van Dorn that the helicopter was safe to fly in the aftermath of the crash. He grew sick of the status quo. I wrote a letter to the commanding officer Basically, I'm coming clean with teen accident, but he struggled knowing that he was the one who told pilot West Van Dorn that the helicopter was safe to fly. The down and- and I realize very quickly, this is not a conversation of anyone wanting to talk about the letter. I wrote other than how inappropriate The letter that I wrote was- and I was just dumbfounded- I couldn't believe this. The one that really shocked meals with the command master Chief Rex come in sit down and- and I realize very quickly, this is not a conversation of anyone wanting to talk about the letter
look. I don't really know that it's gonna ever save anyone's life when it comes to flying naval helicopters. So the Navy wouldn't talk to us about Chris, but we took a look at his person. File. He got stellar evaluations. He was widely regarded as one of the top mechanics of the Squadron But the Navy says he lied about a maintenance mistake. He made shortly after the crash and he was discipline for it, more than a year later, he skipped a lecture about weaken behaviour and personal safety in order to take his daughter to school. That's when his commanding officer had grounds to this. Is in crisis career in the Navy was over United basic point. Blank asked him
sir. This is going to do with a lot of concerns have raised some of the issues that I know that you ve talked to me about, will somehow my ways of approaching Danes pretty much looking face and told me that I hope the bear I posed to the bare too many times, and now I've got a I've got to deal with it. I asked I chucks Binny about Chris and why it so hard for people in the military to speak up most people look at this thing and they just say it's too much of a Ask and remember also their condition culturally to put faith in the authority of the system. So even if they see something wrong, they're biased say, maybe I just don't see the big picture after all, is a general and I'm just at just a lieutenant
Anyone who says, oh, you sure, spoken up more, I did speak up ass, loud ass. I could and no one was Lucy across the board and even to an admiral known was listening to now. My fear. Two years from now sitting there with my five year old daughter on the lake one day in. I'm gonna learn on Facebook, but a fifty three. Crash somewhere in someone died. You look. A bird number and- everything you ever did on that bird is going to flood through your head, and that's that's hard to put on somebody. That's a since I'm not out of the Navy release as this bird flying, but I can't wait. Until the day that I can go
Aviation museum and show my daughter. Then I made sure to three and tell her It doesn't fly anymore, but the bird is still flying. When is it going to be enough? How many people have to die? That's next on reveal From the centre for investigative reporting and p r ex this is reveal a mallet. Dylan Balloon was one of two sailors who survived the twenty fourteen, see dragon crash. His request, It was difficult physically and emotionally. His injuries led him to leave the navy with an honourable discharge and twenty fifty one of them.
Things. It helped him process would ve been through was developing a friendship with another person deeply affected by the tragedy. The goal Van Dorn lost husband, west in the accident that deals survive. Documentary film makers, Jason, pallid, Dino, Zachary, staffer, join D On a week, long visit in the courthouse, here's Zachary the minute Dylan steps out of Car, Nicole, two sons rush over one by one to hug him you you got another one coming It's been nearly three years since the crash that killed Wes Nicole's Ray married now, with a four month old baby, her new husband Josh gives Dylan a bear, over the next few days? Don't goes out to lunch with Mccall they get Pettycury together, any goose off with the boys in the yard you ready
what two three the boys, dressed in a superhero costumes playfully attack dealing as he rakes leaves. At first glance. You'd never know about don't injuries that his shoulder was torn up and his head split open. I'm thought son of Odin Keeper, ass God I am, and when he's having this much fun, it's even harder to see the psychological trauma Dylan's a time since the accident. Clearly it's been tough to find his footing the calls place there's much like home as anywhere probably more the next afternoon as Nicole's packing. The boys school lunches reflects on the difference between Dillon rebels in her own west gone people understand that people can digest everything they look at their husband or anything that. Will my husband
then they look at doing they just don't understand the things I think his I was unseen I lockable I didn't lose a loved one, but I know that I lost the old me lacking to pretend then I had. I had those dark nights and thats a suicide in struggles with PTSD Year Just meant disorder, whatever you want a label it ass. But for me, because but much different battle, because I don't feel justified in my feelings, because I didn't go to war, I was blown up in an idea. I wouldn't taken bullets. Doing enlisted at seventeen and all figured. The navy would be his career out of the service. He's finished up training, so he can work for a utility company. He says he's
moving forward not moving on, but moving forward and sundays, or tougher than others mean honestly on ever know from India on the other side of the storm? Sometimes shrill yard find the reason for why things happen. And sometimes it feels acre, damn near close breaking I see the same before at one point. Nicole, sit down at the kitchen table to leave through a scrap book, isn't like my grief process, like in a bind our respect. Yeah, I've never show, if I remember, doesn't, like chronological orders the thick under the covers Nicole and West. His journey, starting at his time at the Naval Academy. Early photos are all smiles like the family it is winging ceremony after finishing flight school is kiss him. I mean Nick has had on. She turns the page and then we can tell the stuff right. Nicole, saved
thing related to the crash articles. Letters photos there even pictures. Her older son, then only for drew at the time. They show a family of stick figures. One of them is in a bar. And crossed out now that one rip your heart output in wonder. Then he asked Tom somehow they make it through the book. ok,
your personal family, beautiful. I gotcha, What healing for Dylan and call to process their grief together? There is another step, that's much harder to achieve getting justice for what went wrong survivors in families can't see the military for things that happened in training or combat incense. Nineteen eighty eight Supreme Court decision, the odds of winning a lawsuit against offence. Contractors are slim still Dylan, Nicole, in the two other windows from the crash sued. The helicopters manufacturer Sikorski Without admitting wrongdoing, Sikorski agreed with confidential settlement parent company Lockheed more
declined to be interviewed for this story. We completed the film in the fall of twenty eighteen. We decided to call it. Killed Lieutenant Van Dorn after Wes, and we knew that place. We had to show it was Norfolk where his squadron is based. So we range, the screening at a local feeder. I call on the coal before we had to Virginia Pierrot: hey, are you done basically com to just check with you and see how you're doing you know we're screening this film in your hometown. In just a couple of days, I'm nervous on ancient but I am also one bit relieved. I guess
Cole says she's been seeing nasty comments about the film online from sailors at West. His old squadron can a lot of the people who are talking weren't, even at the squadron at the time it had been fed a whole bunch of propaganda about how on in England, where, with an axe, to grind geyser unethical journalists who are just out for your own ends, which is like none of that is based in reality at all, and people are just people needed up. I tell her even though the Navy declined to participate in the documentary we ve invited modern commanders and staff to the screening. I don't feel like the Navy, or the squadron won't be here at I I resolved, but that doesn't matter right of the public and the little or someone else will now be great. It became ungrateful
but I'm not gonna hold my breath. Three days later were driving into Norfolk. Did I get on the right road? I'm not coming up on the? U S, S Wisconsin, take this exit about two hundred and fifty people show up at the theatre. Many great each other. It clear that this is a tight knit community. Our film covers was his life, the crash and how the Navy ignored problems with the fleet for decades Nicole's in it. Dylan is too along with mechanic Chris Honey and West. His mom Susan
and such ass to the other half a day when you can fly, Take us for a Helen. I will never forget can't. Look me in the eye and he said Mama. I would never take you over this piece of crap you can hear. Nicole, crying ass, she watches The film man's on another tragic note, two years after west died. Another fifty three crash off the coast of Hawaii among the dead one of West is best friends. When is it going to be how many people have to die. The lights go up towards people crowd around Nicole
We don't see anyone from the squadron command here, but some sailors have shown up I personally tunnels are you coming. I can support. I can tell a story with wasn't. The great guy did that person. I've ever used detract in tune as military wife- I want this x mosaic because We insist on understand what we go through one sailor, whose from was the squadron, doesn't want to be recorded, but tells me call the sea in culture problems West was concerned about their staff. What's going on. The point is for something to change the pointers for the right path, Who is in a position to change something to actually do that so remains to be seen, but nothing bad happened and I feel it was cathartic. I feel supported by
the community so who does Nicole think was responsible for the death of her husband. She says answer. Isn't so simple? I mean I can point the finger at one person, but I would say that one that knowingly looked the other way and chose to not do not speak up all those individuals, whether intentional or not there who come to us. What's the end game from coal an easier answer. Then in for me, and people are safe. People are is in the armed forces, are always going to dine there all dangerous jobs and not something that men and women but decide to do. That's it. That's
that's the cross, they bear and they do it knowingly. That's not what I take issue with. It's the unknown, the risk that he knowingly, except that is what I can't stand. There is a difference between unsafe and dangerous. He had a dangerous job. He accepted that it was dangerous and he chose to do a dangerous job but he didn't choose to do it on If so, is the future of the fifty three The Marines are overhauling the existing fleet, but their use years behind schedule. There also
building, a new model, fifty three k and over hundred and fifty million dollars apiece, it's also pine schedule and budget. As for the Navy, they say They're gonna stop playing the sea dragons by twenty twenty five, but there are few signs progress on meeting their target. So for now the military is deadliest, aircraft will keep on flying Thanks to his angry staffer induce impel Ladino for bringing this story more about their word. Winning documentary who killed Lieutenant Van Dorn, so Viscera website reveal news, dot or special thanks to our partner, the envy The gate of reporting program at University of California, burglaries, graduate school of journalism and executive producers, John Temple and Lowell Bergman. We also got help from Amy Walter's Loi, Amira our own and my kicks in both these now using Chronicle, Michael Montgomery,
reduces we show Genji and was the editor of production. Badges and achieve a meaning original scorn. Sound designed by the dynamic, do o J raising this Jim Breaks, Fernando my manual Aruba, their help from Catherine, Raimondo and Caitlin bans are seniors. Revising editors, Alcatel needed Marsili Chris Sharper Executive producers Kevin solving a theme musings by Colorado, lightning for four reveals provided by the Raven David Logan Foundation, the John D and can T Macarthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the fourth foundation, hiding Simons Foundation and the ethics and exports and journalism foundation reveal as a co production at the center for investigative reporting, p r x amount lit and remember, there is always more to the stormy.
These are last few shows of the year and let me tell you in twenty twenty we are bringing the fire launching some of our most ambitious projects we ve ever done. I can wait for you to hear them reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads telling stories that matter and this kind of investigative journalism. Well, it takes time and it costs money. These are the final weeks bar end of the year membership campaign. We depend on listeners like you to help make this work possible to support us just text. The word reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven state of data rates apply and you can take stop or cancel at any time again. Just texted I'll do for seven, four, seven, four! Seven! Let's go! Do some good work together.
Transcript generated on 2019-12-20.