EXCLUSIVE: Mechanic says helicopter crash his fault

EXCLUSIVE: Mechanic says helicopter crash his fault (6pm)
Published: May. 9, 2013 at 10:53 PM HST|Updated: May. 9, 2013 at 11:07 PM HST
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Brant Swigart
Brant Swigart

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of the company that inspected the helicopter that crashed in downtown Honolulu Wednesday told Hawaii News Now that he was negligent for not making sure the aircraft was safe.

Brant Swigart, who owns Hawaii Air Power Labs Inc., said he did not do his due diligence and was at fault.

"I've always told everybody this – that I wouldn't let anybody else fly in a helicopter that I wouldn't be willing to put my own family into, and I would've gotten into that helicopter with my baby daughter.  I felt that it was safe.  I hadn't actually checked that, and it would've been me in that instance," explained Swigart.

Swigart says he's had the contract to work on Mauna Loa Helicopters for the past ten years, and he knows exactly why the pilot experienced engine failure Wednesday.  According to him, a cable snapped.

"This cable failed because of negligence, and it was my negligence that caused it," said Swigart.

Swigart says it's not unheard of for a mixture cable to break, but the copter lost power because a back-up switch also failed.

"I didn't physically inspect that assembly.  And if I had I would have caught it.  And if I had caught it, it would have been rectified.   And had it been rectified, this wouldn't have happened," explained Swigart.

Swigart says he needed to come forward and take accountability to be able to sleep at night.

"When I didn't know that everybody was ok – that was the worst moment of my life.  I'm trying to atone for that in some way," said Swigart.

Swigart says he was not the last mechanic to work on the copter, but as owner of the company, he believes it's his responsibility to check everything.

"I want to make it clear again that this was in no way the fault of the pilot.  She was not responsible in any way for this.  She could not have foreseen it.  It's not the responsibility of the operator, they had no culpability in this.  This is human factors issue, and like I said before, I didn't actually rig this myself, but I was responsible for checking it.  Usually in my mind it's enough that I would be willing to get into that helicopter and fly it, which I did – 15 times, at least," said Swigart.

Swigart says every time he hears about a crash, he prays it's not a helicopter he's worked on and his heart feels like it stops beating until he finds out he's in the clear.  This is the first time that wasn't the case.

Hear more from Swigart, tonight on Hawaii News Now at 10 p.m.

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