Robert Decker: Sole survivor of the 2009 Cougar helicopter crash

They wrote their first letter to the minister of Transport back in February. They were the families of 17 people killed in a helicopter crash off Newfoundland back in 2009. The families of the dead and the sole survivor Robert Decker had nagging questions about the safety of choppers still flying. There was no answer. Four months later in June, they wrote again to the minister. Still .. no answer. And so when they sent the third letter this month, Robert Decker decided he had to speak up. He has never spoken publicly outside of a provincial inquiry. Today, he is speaking to us.

Part One of The Current


It's Wednesday, November 23rd.

According to new documents, taxpayer-funded improvements to a Muskoka resort for last year's G8 summit included: $1,650 to move a bed, and $3,500 to change light fixtures.

Currently, the construction industry in Quebec is asking itself how it can get in on some of that action.

This is The Current.

Robert Decker: Sole survivor of the 2009 Cougar helicopter crash

We started this segment with a clip of Robert Decker recalling March 12, 2009. It wasn't a normal flight. He was commuting by helicopter to his job as a weather and ice observer on the Hibernia offshore oil platform, a 90 minute flight from St. John's. That day, he never made it to the rig.

Seconds later, the chopper dropped from the sky, and sank into the frigid north Atlantic, killing 17 of its passengers. Robert Decker, an experienced sailor, managed to get out of the submerged chopper, and swim to the surface, where he spent the longest hour of his life, waiting for rescue. He was airlifted to hospital where he was put on life support, and treated for hypothermia and broken bones. He was the only person to survive the crash.

We aired excerpts from Robert Decker's testimony at a public inquiry, in November 2009, into the crash of Cougar flight 491. It was the only time he has ever spoken publicly about his experience. But today, he's agreed to speak with us because he's still looking for accountability. And he's concerned for the safety of other Canadians who commute by helicopter. Robert Decker was in St. John's, Newfoundland.

The Current requested interviews with Transport Canada and Transport Minister Denis Lebel. They declined. Transport Canada provided a statement, which reads in part:

We will continue to work with our international partners and industry to ensure a harmonized approach addresses the TSB -- Transportation Safety Board -- recommendation on the gearbox, so that helicopters will be required to be able to fly safely for at least 30 minutes.

Other segments from today's show:

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