Iven’s Family Calls for Richard Branson to Scrap SpaceShipTwo Before Anyone Else Dies

Remains of Scaled Composites test stand after a nitrous oxide explosion in July 2007.
Remains of Scaled Composites test stand after a nitrous oxide explosion in July 2007.

The destruction of SpaceShipTwo brought back painful memories for the families, friends and colleagues of three Scaled Composites engineers killed in 2007 during a test of the vehicle’s propulsion system. The family of one of them, Todd Ivens, has called for Richard Branson to scrap the program before anyone else dies.

Mr Ivens’s sister Tara Ford, 41, said: “Yet another good man has lost his life to Branson’s plan. Personally, I would have scrapped it when the first three died, but then that’s just practical thinking.

“Seeing as it was figured out the boys were not properly trained for what they were doing back in 2007, it makes me wonder if things are going how they are supposed to.”

Mrs Ford said the news of the rocket ship crash had brought memories of the death of her brother flooding back to her. Mr Ivens, 33, and two colleagues Eric Blackwell, 38, and Charles ‘Glen’ May, 45, who were employed by Scaled Composites, died when a tank of nitrous oxide exploded on July 26 2007 at Mojave Air and Space Port.

They had been watching the test from behind a chain-link fence which offered them no protection from the shrapnel and other debris when the nitrous oxide tank blew up. Three other employees were injured in the blast and Scaled Composites was fined a little over $25,00 for five breaches of health and safety rules.

It is understood that Scaled Composites conducted its own an internal review of what went wrong although those findings have never been made public. The cause of the accident was also never made public.

Mrs Ford, who lives in Portland, Oregon, where Mr Ivens grew up, said: “I got that ‘not again’ feeling when I saw the news last week.

“They never really got to the bottom of why it happened, I still don’t know. We were just told it was a one-in-500,000 accident. But here we are again.”

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