Eight bodies recovered from the sea were brought ashore this morning.
"The grim reality is that the crew of 16 on board has been lost," said Colin Menzies, assistant chief constable of Grampian Police.
The Super Puma helicopter was returning to Aberdeen from a North Sea oil platform when it crashed yesterday afternoon in calm and sunny conditions, 14 miles off Peterhead in north-east Scotland.
BP said the helicopter, carrying 14 oil workers and two helicopter crew, was coming back from the company's Miller oil field.
Operator Bond Offshore Helicopters rejected calls by a trade union for all its Super Pumas to be grounded. The company said it had "every confidence in the Super Puma."
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said two lifeboats and seven other vessels, including ferries and fishing boats, were searching for the missing. Experts from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch were travelling to the scene of the crash today.
Helicopters have been used to ferry workers to and from the oil and gas fields off the Scottish coast since the construction of platforms there in the 1970s.
Yesterday's crash was the second such incident in the North Sea this year, both involving the Super Puma. A Super Puma ditched in the North Sea in February, but all 18 people on board were rescued.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said a death toll of 16 would make this Britain's second-deadliest helicopter disaster.
The worst was in 1986 when 45 people died after a Chinook crashed into the sea off the Shetland Islands north of Scotland.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his thoughts were with the families of those involved.
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