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Canadian Helo Crash:

Canadian Maritime
Sea King Helicopter
crashes off Denmark

All five crew members were recovered safely immediately after their CH-124 Sea King Helicopter crashed around 50 kilometers off the coast of Denmark

The accident happened while the crew practiced night landings on the deck of the HMCS ATHABASKAN, while the Halifax based destroyer was deployed as flagship with the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1.


The Canadian destroyer HMCS ATHABASKAN.
(Photo: Canadian National Defence)

By Johnny E. Balsved

At 1934 local Danish time (GMT +1) on Thursday, February 2, 2006 a type CH-124 Sea King Helicopter from the HMCS ATHABASKAN crashed while practising night landings on the Canadian destroyer.

The five crew members were instantly plucked from the sea by the destroyer and later treated for very minor injuries on board the ATHABASKAN.

The crash site is around 50 kilometers off the eastern coast of Denmark, just to the North West off the small Danish island, Anholt, in Kattegat.

Trained for Emergencies

The CH-124 was practicing night landings on the destroyers helo deck, and it wasn't known if the crash was caused by a mechanical failure or a human failure, as the helicopter's pilot tried to land on the skip's stern on this dark but clear night.

The Sea King helicopter tried initially to land on the destroyer, but flew off to try again. It was making a second pass when it went suddenly into the water.

The crew was able to get out of the aircraft within seconds and were being examined by doctors on the ATHABASKAN within 10 minutes after the crash.

The Sea King shortly after flipped onto its back in the water, stayed afloat for a few moment, the sank to the bottom on 16 meters of water.

A Canadian CH-124 Sea King

A Canadian CH-124 Sea King.
(Photo: Canadian National Defence)

According to a Canadian navy official, the crews training helped avoid serious injury. The helicopters crews are trained to exit from an inverted helicopter, and also carrying breathing apparatus on the helicopter.

Not the first Accident

At this point there is nothing indicating why the accident occured, but a team of military investigators are preparing to go to the crash site, and an attempt would be made to hoist the helicopter from 16 meters of water.

The accident is just the latest in a long string of problems for the venerable fleet of CH-124 Sea Kings, which have served as the navy work horse since the early 1960's.

Canada's fleet of Sea Kings have been involved in four fatal crashes that have claimed at least 10 lives over the years.

The Canadian government has placed an order for 28 Sikorsky H-92 Superhawk's to replace the Sea Kings, but the first helicopter with the Canadian appellation CH-148 Cyclone are first due for delivery in late 2008 and are not expected to be operational before late 2009.

The last Sea King is expected to retire in 2011.

Anti-Submarine Weapon of Choice

The Canadian CH-124 Sea King is very similar to the Danish Sea King S-61, but where the Danish Sea Kings are mainly used for Search and Rescue, the CH-124 are also used as the anti-submarine weapon of choice within the Canadian navy.

The maritime helicopter is used as an integral part of the ships weapon system.

The Danish Sea Kings are operated by the Royal Danish Air Force and being replaced by the EH-101 Merlin Joint Supporter, whereas the first delivery took place earlier this year.

Remains on Station

The HMCS ATHABASKAN is deployed with the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, a squadron consisting of the USS SIMPSON (USA), FGS MECKLENBURG-VORPOMMERN (Germany), ORP GENERAL KAZIMIERZ PULASKI (Poland) and PNS VASCO DA GAMA (Portugal).

The Canadian destroyer carries a crew of about 300 people and is the flagship for the group. The group was participating in the Danish nation exercise SQUADEX 5, which has been going on for the past week.

The ATHABASKAN will remain at the crash site until a salvage vessel has reached the site, where after the destroyer will go to Aarhus on a planned tour with the rest of the squadron from the alliance nations.

Standing NATO Maritime Group 1

 The Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 seen here in January 2006 with
the HMCS ATHABASKAN in front.
(Photo: Canadian National Defence)

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This page was first published: February 3, 2006

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