海保ヘリ墜落 原因究明を阻む悪質な隠蔽だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 23, 2010)
JCG's cover-up obstructs investigation
海保ヘリ墜落 原因究明を阻む悪質な隠蔽だ(8月22日付・読売社説)

The outrageous cover-up by the Japan Coast Guard over a recent fatal helicopter accident is nothing but an attempt to obstruct the investigation.

The 6th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters' helicopter Akizuru hit power lines and crashed in the Seto Inland Sea off Kagawa Prefecture on Wednesday afternoon, killing all five aboard.

For more than a day after the accident, the coast guard concealed the fact that one of the purposes of the helicopter's flight was a demonstration for a group of legal trainees who were aboard a JCG patrol boat to experience coast guard missions at sea.

The JCG initially said the helicopter was on a patrol flight and only changed its story when the media brought up the demonstration flights.

It is not surprising that Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara strongly criticized the JCG, saying, "The coast guard's concealment is serious, and it should reflect deeply on its conduct."

There is nothing wrong with carrying out demonstration flights. It is meaningful to give legal trainees an opportunity to observe the JCG's activities to help them understand the coast guard's mission.

However, the coast guard even concealed the demonstration flights from an official of the ministry's Japan Transport Safety Board who visited the crash site. In a broad sense, the JCG's conduct appears to be an attempt to destroy evidence related to the crash.

Systematic deception

What makes the latest case heinous is that senior JCG officials, including the chief of the 6th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, systematically decided not to disclose the demonstration flights.

In addition, when the JCG first acknowledged conducting the demonstration flights, the chief of the headquarters' general affairs division said, "I intentionally decided it was better not to disclose [the demonstration flights]," indicating that it was his decision. The coast guard covered up another fact by saying the head of the headquarters and other senior JCG officials were not involved in the decision.

The coast guard would never have acted in this manner if it had considered those who lost their lives in the line of duty and their bereaved families. The ministry should closely question the headquarters' chief and other senior JCG officials to lay the blame at the right door.

Commenting on the cover-up, the headquarters explained it did not mention the demonstration flights "because the site of the accident and the [area of the] demonstration flights were 17 kilometers apart and, therefore, they were unrelated."

Problem with flight plan?

However, the accident occurred between two demonstration flights when the helicopter was investigating an abandoned ship. Was there some problem with the helicopter's flight plan? A thorough investigation must be carried out before deciding on the relationship between the demonstration flights and the accident.

The transport safety board needs to look into the case thoroughly to determine the real reason behind the cover-up and the cause of the accident.

In investigating the 2005 JR Fukuchiyama Line derailment accident, a member of the then Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission, a predecessor of the board, leaked information related to its investigation to West Japan Railway Co. before the commission compiled a report on the accident--a monstrous mistake that investigative authorities should have prevented.

The transport safety board will lose public trust if it treats the coast guard with kid gloves during its investigation simply because the board and the JCG are organizations under the same ministry.

Merely keeping an eye on the piloting of aircraft is not enough to prevent such an accident from recurring. The board must investigate the JCG and the headquarters from all possible angles, including flight safety.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2010)
(2010年8月22日01時20分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-08-23 06:10 | 英字新聞

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