A rear-seat crewman in a Marine plane that sheared the cable of an Italian ski gondola - killing 20 people - said Friday he struggles every day with the fact he was powerless inside the jet.
Capt. Chandler Seagraves read from a statement at a news conference at the close of a hearing to determine whether he and the other rear-seat crewman should face courts-martial in the tragedy."My prayers go out to all those families who are dealing with their losses," Seagraves said. "What I have to deal with every day is the fact that I could not do anything which might have prevented this from happening."
All four crew members were charged under the military principle of shared responsibility. Marine Corps investigators concluded that the EA-6B Prowler, a radar-jamming plane, was flying too low and too fast Feb. 3 on a training route from Aviano Air Base in the Italian Alps.
The two front-seat crewman face a similar hearing June 15. All four aviators could face life in prison on manslaughter charges if tried and convicted.
Earlier in the day, the final defense witness said the aviators broke a rule on speed and altitude but weren't flying unsafely. Col. George Monarch, the assistant chief of staff of the 2nd Marine Air Wing, said he had flown faster at lower altitudes when a mission called for it.
The Marines impose a 1,000-foot minimum altitude and the Italian government a 2,000-foot minimum on the route where the accident occurred. The gondola's cable was at about 370 feet.
Seagraves, 28, is from Nineveh, Ind., and his fellow rear-seat crewman, Capt. William Raney II, 26, is from Englewood, Colo.
The military judge, Lt. Col. Ronald Rodgers, said he won't issue a report on whether to recommend courts-martial until after the hearing from the jet's pilot, Capt. Richard Ashby, 30, of Mission Viejo, Calif., and the other front-seat crewman, Capt. Joseph Schweitzer, 30, of Westbury, N.Y.