Chinook mayday not heard

AN army lieutenant was "ramp riding" at the back of an Australian Chinook helicopter before it started bucking out of control, crashing and killing him in the mountains of Afghanistan, a commission of inquiry heard.

Lieutenant Marcus Case, 26, was believed to have fallen under the pitching chopper as it rolled over during an emergency landing on May 30, 2011, the hearing, which opened at Victoria Barracks yesterday, heard.

The commission was told that one of the pilots had called in a "mayday" as the helicopter pitched out of control, but the message was only heard internally as the transmission switch was in the wrong position and he could not change channels because of the intensity of vibrations.

The family of the Melbourne-raised lieutenant, as well as Defence personnel, attended the hearing, which is expected to run for seven weeks. In a statement , the soldier's relatives said they had been steeling themselves for the hearing.

Colonel Gary Hevey, counsel assisting the inquiry, said the investigations had shown that the chopper had been "oscillating" aggressively before the crash and that Lieutenant Case was at the rear of the aircraft with his legs over the ramp.

As the chopper pitched violently, a mayday call was made that would not be heard.

Captain Drew Burkitt told the hearing that: "I realised that this was quickly becoming a situation we could not control."

He had earlier told investigators that at the time, he thought "We are all dead, this cannot be recovered."

The inquiry will determine why Lieutenant Case was on the Chinook at the time and how he died.

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The story Chinook mayday not heard first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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