Hearing begins over fatal Coast Guard crash

By Becky Bohrer

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 7 2011 7:00 p.m. MST

USCG Lt. Lance Leone, left, shakes hands with Southeast Alaska pilot, and friend, Patrick Coyle outside the Federal Court room in Juneau, Alaska where Leone's Article 32 hearing began on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. Leone faces charges stemming from a Coast Guard helicopter crash that killed 3 colleagues off the Washington coast in 2010. The hearing will help decide if charges are dropped or administrative action or court martial is pursued.

The Juneau Empire, Klas Stolpe, Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — The defense took aim at a Coast Guard investigator's contention that the co-pilot of a helicopter that crashed, killing three, was "not actively navigating."

An attorney for Lt. Lance Leone, John Smith, referred to the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, which indicated Leone helped run through safety checklists and watch for hazards.

Smith said Leone and the pilot engaged in training during part of the flight, and the crash investigator, Capt. Timothy Heitsch, acknowledged that the helicopter would have missed the wires it ultimately hit had it stayed programmed at the speed and altitude that Leone at one point set it to.

Smith said the pilot changed it, with no warning to the rest of the crew, shortly before the 2010 crash off the Washington coast.

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