Another Fatal Crash As Hansen Helo Trial Resumes

 - August 16, 2022, 11:46 PM

The day after the Hansen Helicopter trial resumed in Guam this week, a helicopter linked to the company crashed, killing the pilot and seriously injuring the two mechanics aboard. The MD 369HS, registration RP-C6911, crashed during a maintenance flight in Mabalacat, Pampanga in the Philippines Tuesday morning local time. Pilot Diosdado Lumanlan died, and mechanics Ivan Abiong and Rodley Esogen were seriously injured. 

The helicopter was previously on the FAA registry and operated by an entity controlled by Hansen. The company established approximately 40 different helicopter ownership entities on the island nation tax haven of Vanuatu for its fleet of 46 aircraft, which the government labeled as “shell companies” that were part of a “fraud scheme.”

At the time of the crash, the accident helicopter was operated by Pacific Spotters, Inc., a fish-spotting company formed by senior executives of Guam-based Hansen after they and that company were investigated and ultimately indicted in 2018. Charges in the indictment consisted of multiple counts of money-laundering, fraud, bribery, and violation of a variety of FAA regulations including employing unlicensed pilot and mechanics, using unapproved parts, and operating unairworthy aircraft, including several assembled from parts and data plates from helicopters previously classified as destroyed. The government alleges that these practices potentially contributed to 30 helicopter accidents and nine deaths at Hansen since defendant John Walker purchased the company in 1998.  

Federal prosecutors allege that Walker, acting as Hansen’s principal, and the company transferred N-registered helicopters and $5 million that Walker controlled to Pacific Spotters for the purpose of “continuing their criminal enterprise,” Marie Miller, special United States assistant attorney, alleged in Guam District Court Wednesday morning. “John Walker sold the helicopters from himself to himself to continue conducting his fraud,” she said. “He’s so bold to even still be using N-numbered helicopters even though he deregistered all of the helicopters with the FAA, claiming to the FAA, himself personally, that these helicopters were being deregistered because they were going to be exported to the Philippines and used in the Philippines. You can’t use U.S. registration numbers anymore once you do that,” Miller said, noting that as an FAA-licensed A&P mechanic with inspection authorization, Walker had to know better.  

Miller revealed Tuesday’s crash while arguing a motion during the trial this morning. She said Walker and other Hansen defendants, who will be tried separately, traveled to the Philippines to manage Pacific Spotters while out on bail related to the original charges filed in Guam in 2018. Pacific Spotters’ website lists offices in both Guam and the Philippines. 

The trial, which began in February, has been marked by lengthy recesses and frequent, acrimonious arguments, and objections by prosecutors and defense counsel.