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Enabling & Support

N° 19–1995: Measures being taken following fatal accident on 5 May 1995 at Guiana Space Centre

10 May 1995

Further to the ESA press release dated 5 May 1995, CNES, the prime contractor for ESA's Ariane-5 programme and authority responsible for the Guiana Space Centre, announces the following:

An Enquiry Board has been set up by the Director General of CNES. It will investigate and report on:
- the circumstances of the accident,
- the cause(s),
- the anomalies and malfunctions detected.

It will draw up technical, methodological and organisational recommendations in order to further reduce the risk of this type of accident.
Its chairman is Mr Mathias Trotin, former Director of Operations at CNES and Arianespace and currently a management consultant.

The other members have been chosen for their great experience and expertise in operations, on the one hand, and enquiries and audits on the other:

- Mr Hubert Palmieri, former Director of Operations at CNES and Arianespace
- Mr Jean-Claude Wanner, Ingenieur General de l'Armement and expert in operations risk and human factor analysis
- Mr Jean Gruau, former Inspecteur General at CNES. The Board will be in Guiana today and will submit its findings on 18 May.

In parallel, the official investigations by the relevant French authorities are proceeding.
To date and subject to the findings of the various investigations, it can be confirmed that:

- the cause of death is asphyxiation through inhalation of gas having an excessively high nitrogen content
- this abnormal release of nitrogen in a confined space has been traced to a clearly identified exchanger in the umbilical mast on the Ariane-5 launch table in the ELA-3 launch area.

It remains to formally determine the cause(s) of this abnormal nitrogen leak: malfunction, design fault or wrong utilisation configuration of the exchanger. The enquiries and investigations under way will soon do so.