Activities at an Accident Site

Following an aviation accident and mindful of the priority for the preservation of life by the Emergency Services, an Garda Síochána will secure and preserve the immediate area of the accident site, pending the arrival of the AAIU “Go-Team”.  Every effort will be made to arrive on-site as soon as possible. As such the AAIU may utilize military helicopter transport (if available) with follow-up support travelling by road.

On arrival, a briefing will take place between the Senior Garda Officer and the Senior AAIU Investigator, in order to determine the initial facts known at that time and develop an agreed course of action on how to progress the on-site activities.  Where it has been determined that an unlawful criminal act has taken place, An Garda Síochána will have primacy on site and the AAIU will provide technical support on request.

Where no unlawful criminal act has taken place, the AAIU will commence a field investigation.   An AAIU Investigator-in-Charge (IIC) will be appointed at the accident site and he/she will be responsible for managing all aspects of the investigation, both on-scene and for the entire course of that particular investigation.  In general, the main activities on-site would include:

  • Gathering perishable evidence
  • Recovery of recorders (where available)
  • Recording entire wreckage and wreckage field
  • Identifying primary parts of aircraft
  • Gathering associated evidence (ATC, Aircraft and Personnel records, etc.)
  • Conducting witness interviews
  • Recovery of wreckage to AAIU examination facility in Gormanston, Co. Meath.

The Investigation

The depth of investigation will be determined by the severity/size of the event, while taking account of whether significant safety lessons can be drawn to enhance aviation safety, in particular, in the area of public transport.

In general terms and not exhaustive, the following areas will be considered in the investigation:

OPERATIONS: The history of the flight and personnel information

STRUCTURES: Documentation of the airframe wreckage and the accident site, including calculation of impact angles to determine the accident sequence

POWERPLANTS: Examination of engines (and propellers) and engine accessories

SYSTEMS: Study of components of the aircraft’s hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic and associated systems, including instruments and the flight control system

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Reconstruction of air traffic services, including acquisition of ATC radar data and transcripts of ATC communications

WEATHER: Gathering weather data associated with the operation of the flight

RECORDERS: Recovery, download and analysis of cockpit and flight recorders (when available) and any other device that may contain non-volatile memory

HUMAN PERFORMANCE: Study of crew performance, including training, workload, work environment, equipment/cockpit design, fatigue, medication, alcohol, drugs, medication, medical and licencing history

SURVIVAL FACTORS: Documentation of impact forces and injuries, seat restraints, evacuation, emergency planning and rescue response