by Tina Olivero

REMEMBERING OUR PEOPLE: Flight 491 Anniversary of Helicopter Crash

On route to the SeaRose FPSO at the White Rose Oilfield, a fatality of unforgettable proportion happened. Cougar Helicopters Flight 491 ditched on 12, March, 2009.

In the cold, Atlantic waters offshore Newfoundland, 34 miles east-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, 17 people lost their lives. One survived.

Although weather conditions that day were reported as good, a Mayday call was issued after the aircraft reported zero oil pressure in the main gearbox at 9:40 a.m. Newfoundland time.

Flight 491 attempted to return to St. John’s but went down at 9:48 a.m. 25 minutes later it was spotted at sea but sank in 584 ft of water. Only one fortunate soul of the eighteen people aboard survived the sinking, although another managed to exit the aircraft. Escape from a ditched helicopter is difficult at the best of times, even when it has landed gently, let alone spinning out in the 32 degrees F, cold Atlantic ocean.

Robert Decker of St. John’s, was found as the only survivor of the crash and was flown to hospital at St. John’s in critical but stable condition with fractures and with salt water in his lungs. The Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Forces, Provincial Airlines planes and surface vessels continued to search the area for additional survivors, to no avail.

Pilot Matthew William Thomas Davis, 34, of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and First Officer Tim Lanouette, 48, of Comox, British Columbia both died in the accident. Of the fifteen passengers killed in the accident, thirteen were from Newfoundland and Labrador while one each was from Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The sole surviving passenger is Robert Decker.

In a previous CBC interview, Robert Decker said, “I think it was probably luck, I was young, healthy and fit when this happened. Maybe the way I braced against the seat helped. Also, I stayed calm and didn’t panic. Many people know I’m a sailor. Many times I’ve been thrown overboard. I think it may have helped me escape. I was lucky. I was near a window. It sank port-side down. I was on the starboard side. It could have been someone else who survived instead of me. It was a very long ascent to the surface. I could see it was getting brighter and brighter. I got to the surface and I thought, ‘I survived a helicopter crash.’ I was alarmed that this had happened.”

On March 12, the day of the fatal crash, we are reminded of safety protocols and the cost of human and mechanical error, calling for safety first above all.

We remember these brave unfortunate ones and send the families of these souls our prayers and healing wishes.

Thomas Anwyll, 46, Langley, British Columbia.
Peter Breen, 55, St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Gary Corbett, 46, Conception Bay South, Newfoundland.
Matthew William Thomas Davis, 34, St. John’s, Pilot of the helicopter.
Wade Drake, 42, Fortune, Newfoundland.
Wade Duggan, 32, Witless Bay, Newfoundland.
Corey Eddy, 32, of Paradise, formerly of Sibley’s Cove, Newfoundland.
Keith Escott, 39, St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Colin Henley, 38, St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Tim Lanouette, 48, Comox, B.C., First officer on the helicopter.
Allison Maher, 26, Mount Pearl, formerly of Aquaforte, Newfoundland.
Ken MacRae, 47, Greenwood, Nova Scotia.
Gregory Wayne Morris, 39, Outer Cove, Newfoundland.
Derrick Mullowney, 51, Bay Bulls, Newfoundland.
Burch Nash, 44, Fortune, Newfoundland.
John Pelley, 41, Deer Lake, Newfoundland.
Paul Pike, 49, Shearstown. Nova Scotia.

Tina Olivero

30 years ago, Tina Olivero looked into the future and saw an opportunity to make a difference for her province and people. That difference came in the form of the oil and gas sector. Six years before there was even a drop of oil brought to the shores of Newfoundland, she founded The Oil and Gas Magazine (THE OGM) from a back room in her home on Signal Hill Road, in St. John’s, Newfoundland. A single mother, no financing, no previous journalism or oil and gas experience, she forged ahead, with a creative vision and one heck of a heaping dose of sheer determination. With her pioneering spirit, Ms. Olivero developed a magazine that would educate, inspire, motivate and entertain oil and gas readers around the world — She prides herself in marketing and promoting our province and resources in unprecedented ways. The OGM is a magazine that focuses on our projects, our people, our opportunities and ultimately becomes the bridge to new energy outcomes and a sustainable new energy world. Now diversifying into the communications realms, a natural progression from the Magazine, The OGM now offers an entirely new division - Oil & Gas Media. Today, The Oil and Gas Magazine is a global phenomenon that operates not only in Newfoundland, but also in Calgary and is read by oil and gas enthusiasts in Norway, Aberdeen, across the US and as far reaching as Abu Dhabi, in the Middle East. Believing that Energy is everyone’s business, Ms. Olivero has combined energy + culture to embrace the worlds commitment to a balance of work and home life as well as fostering a foundation for health and well being. In this era of growth and development business and lifestyle are an eloquent mix, there is no beginning or end. Partnering with over 90 oil and gas exhibitions and conferences around the world, Ms. Olivero's role as a Global Visionary is to embrace communication in a way that fosters oil and gas business and industry growth in new and creative ways.

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