New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Apologises For 1979 Plane Crash In Antarctica

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern apologizes for the fatal 1979 plane crash in Antarctica at a memorial service at the Government House in Auckland on November 28.

Written By Tanima Ray | Mumbai | Updated On:
New Zealand

After 40 years of a plane crash that occurred in Antarctica, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on October 28 apologised for the mishandling by the then Government. The crash killed a total of 257 people on November 28, 1979. Air New Zealand flight 901 was on a sightseeing tour from Auckland when it crashed into the side of Mount Erebus, a 3,794 metre (12,448 ft) volcano near the US Antarctic research base of McMurdo Station. While most of the casualties were New Zealand about 20 were Americans, Canadians, Japanese and Australians. Ardern at a memorial service at the Government House in Auckland said that the actions of the government in 1979 had caused pain to the victims' families. 

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She said that after forty years, on behalf of today's government, the time has come to apologise for the actions of an airline then in full state ownership; which ultimately caused the loss of the aircraft and the loss of those you loved. The Prime Minister further clarified in her statement that the pilots were not responsible for this tragedy.

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Cause of accident

The authorities in 1979 initially blamed the pilots for the crash but were forced to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the disaster. Later, the commission found that the cause of the accident was rather the airline's actions in reprogramming the aircraft's navigation system without advising the aircrew. Things turned controversial when the commission's head, former justice Peter Mahon, said that the witnesses from Air New Zealand had conspired to give false evidence, famously describing the airline's defence as "an orchestrated litany of lies". As a result, both Air New Zealand and the government criticized the report. 

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Ardern confirmed the fact that the findings were not accepted by the earlier government and came to be considered again only after 20 years of the Royal Commission report. Air New Zealand apologised to the families of the victims for mistakes made by the airline in 2009. The regret was reiterated by the present Air New Zealand Chairman Therese Walsh on Thursday. Walsh apologised on behalf of the airline saying that 40 years ago it failed in its duty of care to its passengers and staff.

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