Prior to this afternoon’s press brief by the Ministry of National Security, the Minister and other officials met with the families of the fallen soldiers. The families were called in to Price Barracks accompanied by their legal counsel, Audrey Matura. The families were briefed and taken to the Air Wing to view the remnants of the U!H1 helicopter. Matura then spoke to Love News on behalf of three of the families.
Audrey Matura, Attorney-at-Law: “Well basically the family would like to say that they’re very appreciative of the fact that the Ministry had the courtesy to release the report to them first. I mean they have not had the opportunity to read the report any at all because after the report was given to them the Minister just said certain things and after that we were given a tour at the Air Wing of the wreckage. So to say that they’ve actually read it and digested it and can say much about it that’s not true. Since then we know it has been released to the public and the media and maybe people in the public and media have had time to digest it but at least they feel a sense of comfort that they got it first and that there is also a decision that was taken now that after they read it and digest it that next week Wednesday we will return to meet here at Price Barracks so that then they can then ask their questions or concerns and voice what they have to say about the report. Okay just remember this, this is a preliminary report by the Hondurans who came and investigated. What page 14 basically says is it’s pointing to human error however in the section of the recommendations there are very revealing recommendations. I want the record to show right now from the perspective of the families they are not saying they accept that conclusion or they are not saying that they reject it, they believe at this point it is too early there is much more to happen, much more to be considered, more evidence to come in and so they don’t want to jump and say they agree or disagree but other than that they will read it, they will consult who they have to consult and at the right time they will say who their position is but in fairness to the government and all the people who are investigating because there are two more investigations we understand, we’ll give them the opportunity to finish their work and when we put everything together trust me we’ll know where to go from there.”
‘Human Error’ – that is what the investigation seems to be leading up to. According to Matura, they were informed that there is still an investigation to be done with the manufacturers of the aircraft.
Audrey Matura, Attorney-at-Law: “We didn’t have to ask that the minister basically read out the timeline of when these phone contacts were made, who made them and who responded and in a nutshell we can say based on what was said to us basically they were saying that there was a request from a special intelligence unit from the BDF that requested assistance from the General, the General then basically communicated with the Commandant of the Air Wing and that thereafter there was some communication from the Ministry and that the final decision was based on what the commander of the Air Wing thought was the proper thing to do whether to go or not. Of course we asked that we be given proof of all of that, it’s in the report we are told, some of the messages back and forth but we can’t confirm or deny. So it would seem based on what they are saying that all those who needed to know knew but then this is a preliminary report, the Hondurans were supposed to just investigate what happened at the crash site, there is still a wider investigation as to the circumstances before, the protocols followed, the proper chain of command even the means of communication, what was logged and what was not logged and all of that so we can’t say in detail who actually gave it but it would seem that the request came from the Ministry and there was some kind of agreement from the General and thereafter the Air Wing took over and made the decision whether to go or not to go. There is still an investigation to be done by the company that manufactured the helicopter, they have to do theirs, that the Americans also offered to come in with their expertise and do their own investigation and as you all know Admiral Borland is the one coordinating overall so from the Government perspective we are expecting that after all these mini investigations are done that they will step forward and give what is the larger investigation and conclusion so we’re literally only at preliminary stage.”
Matura stated that the families are requesting an advance on their benefits before the set time frame.
Audrey Matura, Attorney-at-Law: “Government has said that they would be compensating them. I mean that is the word that they’ve used. Compensation indicates that it’s beyond their benefit, they are entitled to certain benefits as being members of the military, compensation means that we recognize that something went wrong you don’t have to sue us we will compensate you. So if it’s a slip of the tongue or a misuse of the term we don’t know so we’re hoping that for the families that whatever request they make apart from their benefit if they are entitled to any form of compensation that we the attorneys will be able to handle it at the right time but at this point it is premature to say because this is only a preliminary report and we still have many questions to ask of the investigators, of the government. We don’t know if they’ll be able to answer all of them when we come back next week but we’re asking them. Well I think it’s important one of the things that I would wish the government to consider, and I speak here on behalf of all four families because they are all in agreement with this position, is that we know that there are financial benefits that the four soldiers are entitled to by virtue of having served in the military. We know as lawyers that there’s a process, we have to go through the court to get a grant of administration so that the administrator of the estate can request that from the military however that does take a couple months, it could take three to six months and depending on certain circumstances can take more so we think that one of the things the government should be considerate of is to give them an advance on those benefits to be subtracted from the final payment that needs to be made of their benefits because the reality is most of these women were very much dependent on the salary of their husband even when they worked it was a family and they have children and suddenly to be weeks, days, months without that money I think we need to consider their financial position at this point so that’s one of the things we will be putting in writing for the government to consider; it’s nothing unusual to be asking for an advance.”
A second meeting is set with the families for Wednesday, March 18 to answer all their queries after reviewing the preliminary report.