Twelve years after the helicopter accident in practice, which claimed the lives of eight French soldiers in Gabon, justice is ruling. Eight soldiers, prosecuted in particular for homicides and unintentional injuries, were released Thursday, July 8, by the Paris Criminal Court.
On January 17, 2009, a Cougar was damaged a few moments after taking off from the deck of a navy vessel, which was sailing in the Gulf of Biafra during a Franco-Gabonese military exercise called “N’gari”. Three crew members and five members of the special forces were killed.
Only two men survived the crash, one of the most serious in recent years during an exercise involving a French army helicopter. The investigations had excluded a mechanical cause and concluded to a piloting error in a dark night context “Level 5”, without visible horizon.
No fault established
However, eight men, including the ship’s captain and the head of the light aviation detachment of the army in Gabon, had been referred to justice on suspicion of various breaches that led to the accident.
They appeared for three weeks in June for manslaughter and manslaughter “By the manifestly deliberate violation of an obligation of safety or prudence” or violation of instructions. Two weeks after the end of the proceedings, the court issued a general acquittal decision on Thursday.
“The court heard, saw, perceived the immense suffering of the civil parties”, declared the president in the preamble. “This decision is in no way intended to call into question the damage suffered by the victims, but we have endeavored to ascertain whether the alleged acts constituted offenses. The answer is no “, she continued.
Some of the defendants were prosecuted for having validated, a week before the crash, a training ” degraded “ from the helicopter pilot when the boat’s deck-landing radar was out of order. Others appeared for having authorized – or not having prevented – the take-off, while this radar was still faulty and a change of team at the last moment had lowered the general level of experience for this type of delicate operation. .
The judges ruled that a “Fault” having a “Definite causal link” with the accident was not established. The pilot’s retraining as well as the helicopter take-off the same day were “Legally possible”, according to the decision. The court followed the requisitions of the public prosecutor, who considered that” no “ of the defendants was not “Responsible” of this accident.