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Cougar exec says offshore chopper crash changed him forever

The general manager of Cougar Helicopters says last year's crash of an offshore chopper in the North Atlantic that killed 17 people has changed him and his company forever.

In his testimony Tuesday at an inquiry into helicopter safety off Newfoundland, Rick Burt said the company paid a heavy price in the crash.

"Cougar Helicopters, too, lost a lot of friends on March 12th, it was a pretty devastating day for our organization, there's no doubt about that," he said.

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He said the inquiry is important in understanding what happened on the day of the crash.

"In the nine months since that point there's been time of healing, reflection and review of everything that's happened," Mr. Burt said. "And this process, I think, is essential to continue on with that."

He also paid tribute to Robert Decker, the lone survivor, for what he described as the courage Mr. Decker showed in his testimony at the inquiry.

The probe was called after Cougar Flight 491 crashed into the North Atlantic about 60 kilometres east of St. John's.

"The events of March 12th changed my life forever, there's no doubt about that," said Mr. Burt, who is also a vice-president of Cougar's parent company, VIH Aviation. "And I, like many Newfoundlanders, have been profoundly affected by the events."

The inquiry led by Commissioner Robert Wells was called to help ensure offshore helicopter travel is as safe as possible.

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