Broadcaster Paul Holmes has called for a parliamentary exoneration of Captain Jim Collins and First Officer Greg Cassin, the pilots of the DC-10 which crashed on the side of Mt Erebus on 28 November 1979.
In his new book, Daughters of Erebus (on sale Monday 5 September), Holmes details a cover up that goes right to the top, implicating both the Air New Zealand management of the time and government of the day.
Holmes says successive governments refused, year after year, to officially recognise Justice Mahon’s accident report which overturned the assertions, made by the Chief Inspector of Air Accidents Ron Chippindale, that the pilots were culpable. With unassailable logic, Mahon proved him wrong. Justice Mahon’s report was eventually tabled in Parliament and became an official document in mid 1999, thanks to the efforts of Hon Maurice Williamson.
“That report absolutely clears the pilots of any blame. Yet confusion about what caused the accident remains in the minds of New Zealanders. It was to the advantage of many men in government, in Civil Aviation and in the airline that this confusion reigned for so long. Now I hope to clear it up once and for all, in a way everyone can understand.”
When the plane crashed, Captain Jim Collins left behind a wife and four young daughters. As well as examining the technical arguments around the cause of the crash, the book looks at the intensely personal impact the tragedy had on them.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Kathryn Carter, who was 15 at the time of the crash, says, “Our father and his co-pilot, Greg Cassin, were cleared of all blame by the Royal Commission. We want that to be understood and accepted by Parliament once and for all, and for it to be accurately recorded for New Zealand’s history.”