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Chopper-crash widow claims safety not priority

The wreckage of the Cougar Helicopter flight 491 shown to the media as the Transportation Safety Board reports on its findings, in St. John's Thursday on March 26, 2009.

Paul Daly/The Canadian Press

The widow of one of the 17 people killed in a helicopter crash off Newfoundland last year says he wouldn't have died if the chopper's manufacturer and oil companies had taken problems with the aircraft more seriously.

Sharon Pike told an inquiry Wednesday that she believes her husband, Paul, would still be alive if concerns that arose about the Sikorsky S-92A's gearbox in July 2008 in Australia were taken more seriously.

"He did not have to die in such a horrific way," said Ms. Pike, brushing away tears.

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Pike appealed to Sikorsky, Cougar - the St. John's office where the chopper was based - and the oil companies to make safety more of a priority in the future.

"If these companies had acted upon the warning they had when the helicopter was forced to land in Australia in July 2008 and fixed the problem with the gearbox immediately, rather than allowing for a time frame of one year or 1,250 flying hours, Paul would be with his children and me today.

"Someone in one of these companies should've taken this situation more seriously."

Ms. Pike said she could not articulate the emotional pain her family has endured since her husband's death.

"Words cannot express the devastation our family feels."

The inquiry into the safety of choppers that fly offshore was called after Cougar Flight 491 went down in the North Atlantic last March.

Officials with the union representing offshore workers at the Hibernia and Terra Nova offshore oil projects testified Tuesday, describing a corporate culture in which workers' concerns about safety went unanswered.

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