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Documentary Investigates The Military’s Deadliest Aircraft

Courtesy of Zachary Stauffer

Naval aviator Lt. Wes Van Dorn signed up to pilot MH-53E helicopters — big, heavy single-rotor aircraft — with assurances he’d be home on most days to have dinner with his family and tuck his son into bed at night.

But as the Greensboro native soon discovered, maintenance and supply issues often kept the choppers grounded, and maintainers and pilots like him at work. In 2014, Van Dorn was killed in a training exercise off the coast of Virginia along with two sailors, leaving his wife Nicole and two young boys behind.

Fueled by grief, his widow wanted answers. A new documentary examines the accident that killed Van Dorn, and questions why the Navy was so slow to improve safety for the deadliest aircraft in the military. Host Frank Stasio talks with Zachary Stauffer, the director and producer of “Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?” about the tragic story that reveals widespread problems in the way the military procures and maintains its equipment. “Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?”screens as part of the RiverRun Film Festivalin Winston-Salem at the Hanesbrands Theater on April 11 at 7:30. p.m.

Jennifer Brookland is the American Homefront Project Veterans Reporting Fellow. She covers stories about the military and veterans as well as issues affecting the people and places of North Carolina.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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