Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pilots in deadly Black Hawk crash off Florida coast disobeyed orders, investigation finds

NEW ORLEANS — The pilots of a Black Hawk military helicopter that crashed off the Florida coast in March, killing all 11 service members aboard, had disobeyed direct orders by flying into worsening weather, according to an investigation report.

The military said in June the crash was caused when the pilots became disoriented at night. The training took place as dense fog rolled in from the Gulf of Mexico.

The full report, obtained by the Associated Press late Thursday through a public records request, said the pilots were not authorized to fly in such bad weather and others failed to challenge the overconfidence of the lead pilot.

The report was a joint investigation by the Louisiana National Guard and U.S. Special Operations Command. Details of the report were previously reported by the Irish Times in June.

The training involved two Black Hawk helicopters from the Louisiana National Guard taking teams of Marine special operations service members over water so they could rappel into the sea.

Both crews "disobeyed a direct order … by choosing to fly in lower than briefed weather minimums," the report said.

The report went on to fault the lead pilot, Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin Jr., 37, of Hammond, La., for pushing ahead with the mission even though weather was worsening March 10.

According to the report, the training was supposed to take place only if cloud cover was no lower than 1,000 feet and visibility was 3 miles. Conditions were worse, with cloud cover as low at 200 feet.

Fog began to set in about 40 minutes before the helicopters took off at 8:16 p.m., according to testimony. A service member told investigators that Griffin dismissed concerns from members on boats where the training was to take place.

Records show that the National Guard felt that Griffin was a top-notch veteran pilot fully capable of doing the training.

"No one spoke up and questioned the wisdom to conduct the mission," the report said.

Griffin and Chief Warrant Officer George David Strother both were decorated veteran pilots.

The Louisiana National Guard did not return messages seeking comment. The Special Operations Command declined to comment.

Pilots in deadly Black Hawk crash off Florida coast disobeyed orders, investigation finds 10/23/15 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2015 10:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics

    Elections

    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.