The crown prosecutor in Labour Code proceedings against ORNGE, the Ontario government’s air ambulance service says the service’s refusal to equip its helicopters with night vision goggles was directly responsible for the deaths of two pilots and two paramedics in 2013. “Despite knowing that flight into total darkness was their No. 1 workplace risk, ORNGE did not give these pilots any way to see in the dark or to see the ground,” prosecutor Nick Devlin told the court. ORNGE countered that the pilots flying a helicopter from Moosonee to Attawapiskat in 2013 “had the training, testing, and experience they needed to fly by instruments.”
Night vision goggles are commonly used by medevac aircraft to enhance vision in the difficult circumstances of many flights. On the flight in question, the aircraft inadvertently descended into the forest on a night flight. Devlin alleged in court that if the pilots had been wearing goggles, they would have been able to arrest the descent in time to avoid the crash. Devlin told court that ORNGE had a “corporate culture of ignoring, attacking and ostracizing pilots and managers who expressed safety concerns.” If found guilty, ORNGE could be required to pay a $1 million fine which will ultimately be paid by Ontario taxpayers.