The air accident investigator - often the hidden victim?

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Cotter, Mary
Issue Date
BA Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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A total of 50 Air Accident Investigators (heretofore referred to as AAIs) comprising of 48 males and 2 females from international countries took part in this study. All respondents were self selecting. The aim of this study was to determine if the AAI experiences stress arising from the investigation of air accidents, and to determine the main stressors. This survey was carried out by email and the questionnaire used was a modified version of a similar study, which followed the Total Design Method (TDM) as outlined by Dillman (1978), Mail and Telephone surveys. Analysis of the data showed significant stressors. The most significant stressors were investigating an accident "where children have been killed or injured"; "where crew members who have been killed or injured are known to the investigator"; "uncovering a body or body part that had not previously been discovered". Many investigators were also able to report memories of scenes of horror and mutilation that have stayed in their memory for years The findings of this study indicate that although many AAls do not experience psychological distress in the course of accident investigation, there are some who do, and that psychological distress is very prevalent in the area of exposure to traumatic on-the-scene stressors. The main findings of this investigation are discussed under the following: Profile of the AAI; Stress and Coping; On-the-scene traumatic stressors; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression; Horror and Helplessness; Unexpected findings