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Co-pilot survivor of Coast Guard helicopter crash tells his story publicly for first time

Coast Guard Lt. Lance Leone, the only survivor of the 2010 crash of a Sitka-based Coast Guard helicopter on the Washington-state coast, has given his first media interview since then to KCAW in Sitka, which is airing it in three parts this week. The helicopter struck a power line stretching from an island to the mainland, killing three crew members. Coast Guard criminal charges against Leone were eventually dismissed -- the crew was accused of flying too fast and too low, among other infractions -- but Leone was given a "career killer" reprimand and a desk job in Texas. 

In the meantime, his legal team is appealing the official crash evaluation and his future as a Coast Guard pilot is under review. Despite feeling he was mistreated in the case, Leone tells KCAW he still believes the Coast Guard is a "great organization."

"It has developed me from when I was 17 to where I currently am. This has really shown me, and developed me, I think more if I’d had nothing to me. It has developed my character, it has developed my knowledge of truth, it has developed how I deal with people, and it has really humbled me to how little I really control a lot of things in my life. ... I will continue pressing for what I believe is right, and I will not compromise my honor, respect or devotion to duty, like I’ve been taught. I will do what I believe is right for the Coast Guard, and I believe what’s right is to go through this and see the process to finality."

Here are links to the three-part KCAW interview:

Part 1: "Hit something we never saw" -- the mission

Part 2: "A rapid, liquid stop" -- the crash

Part 3: "Come back right now" -- in the hospital.

 

 



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