North Sea helicopter crash: All off-shore Super Puma flights suspended as victims' bodies returned to Aberdeen
Fourth victim's body found after Aircraft carrying 18 people ditched west of Sumburgh, Shetland
Sunday 25 August 2013
The bodies of three of the four victims of Friday night’s helicopter crash off Shetland have been transported by passenger ferry to the Scottish mainland. The ferry docked in Aberdeen.
The wreckage of the Super Puma helicopter, which ditched into the sea west of Samburgh, will be brought ashore later after rescue services spent hours moving it onto a salvage vessel.
The body of the fourth and final victim on Friday has also been recovered, police say.
Investigators will now try to establish what was behind the “catastrophic loss of power” which caused the aircraft carrying 14 oil workers to plunge into the North Sea.
Those who died have been named as Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham; George Allison, 57, from Winchester, Hampshire; Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin in the Highlands and 59-year-old Gary McCrossan, from Inverness.
All Super Puma flights to and from UK offshore installations have been suspended.
Helicopter operator CHC said it has grounded the AS332 L2 aircraft which ditched without warning while carrying 18 workers on Friday evening.
The company has also suspended all UK commercial flights of three other Super Puma models following a recommendation from an aviation safety association.
The offshore industry's Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) urged the precautionary measure until there is “sufficient factual information” to resume flights. The cause of the accident is not yet known.
The helicopter was being operated by CHC for oil company Total and was transporting workers from the Borgsten Dolphin platform when it is believed to have experienced a “catastrophic” loss of power as it approached the airport on the southern tip of Shetland's main island.
The HSSG is made up of representatives from oil and gas firms, contractors, helicopter operators, offshore unions, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The group met in Aberdeen on Saturday and recommended the temporary suspension of all Super Puma commercial passenger flights to and from the UK's oil and gas installations.
This includes the AS332 L, L1, L2 and EC225 models.
CHC said it was “devastated” by the accident and would follow the recommendation, which allows for the operation of emergency rescue flights.
The HSSG will meet again on Wednesday to review the suspension unless “any significant information comes to light before this date”.
Industry body Oil & Gas UK has meanwhile arranged a meeting of operators and major contractors today to discuss ways of minimising the impact of the grounding of flights on the offshore workforce.
Of the 14 survivors, two remain in hospital on Shetland and 12 returned to Aberdeen yesterday.
One Total employee was on board and the remainder worked for contract companies, including those killed.
Mr Munro leaves behind wife Penny and 12-year-old daughter Katie.
His family said in a statement: “He will be sadly missed by everyone that knew him and his death will leave a large void in a lot of people's lives.”
Ms Darnley's family paid tribute to a “fun-loving, free spirit” who was brought up in Elgin and moved to Aberdeen aged 19.
The offshore worker is survived by parents Anne and Edmund Darnley, her sister Angela and nephew Nicholas.
Her mother Anne said: “We are shocked by the sudden loss of Sarah, who was a fun-loving free spirit who will be sorely missed.
”Sarah lived life to the full, she was easy going and a one-off. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her."
Mr McCrossan worked for Stork Technical Services. Mike Mann, a senior vice president at the firm, said: ”Our heartfelt condolences go out to Gary's family and to all of those affected by this tragedy.“
Mr Allison had been working at the Offshore Dunbar Platform as a project safety supervisor for just over a year when he was killed, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He described himself as a ”highly qualified, experienced and competent Safety Advisor“ who has worked in the offshore industry for 27 years.
A team from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has travelled to Aberdeen to carry out initial inquiries into the incident.
There have been five North Sea incidents involving Super Pumas since 2009. In April that year an AS332 L2, this time operated by Bond, went down north east of Peterhead on its return from a BP Platform, killing all 14 passengers and two crew on board.
Volunteer lifeboat crews from Aith and Lerwick yesterday assisted coastguard in their attempt to recover the remaining body at sea and collect debris from the crash site.
The RNLI said it had not been possible to recover the remains from the wreckage during the operation and the crews were stood down on Saturday night.
A spokesman said: “I don't anticipate we will be involved any further, but obviously we were happy to assist as much as we could.
”One cannot imagine the turmoil that families and loved ones of those who died must be going through, and they are at the forefront of our minds at this very distressing time.“
Representatives from the oil and gas industry have set up a fundraising page in aid of the RNLI following its rescue effort on Friday.
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