Pilot blamed for North Sea helicopter crash: Error of judgement caused oil rig accident that claimed lives of 11 men

THE PILOT of a helicopter which crashed during a short trip from a North Sea oil rig killing 11 people was blamed for the tragedy by an accident inquiry report yesterday .

Captain Jonathan Shelbourne, who has been stripped of his licence, was described as 'a broken man' by Sheriff Alexander Jessop, who conducted the inquiry into the crash off the Cormorant Alpha rig in March last year.

Shell, which operates the rig, was also criticised in the report for failing to ensure that its own rules requiring a stand-by vessel to be near by during flights were observed.

Ten oil workers and the co-pilot of the Super Puma helicopter died after it crashed into the sea less than two minutes after taking off in appalling weather to ferry the men to a nearby accommodation vessel.

Yesterday Sheriff Jessop called for an urgent safety review of the use of such aircraft in the North Sea oil industry. Almost 70 people have been killed in helicopter accidents in the past 10 years. Unions representing oil workers are concerned that no comprehensive code governing their use has been developed in spite of being the most common transport for men employed on rigs.

Sheriff Jessop, who conducted a public inquiry in Aberdeen, said that Capt Shelbourne caused the accident by failing to maintain his height and speed, not monitoring his instruments and then not taking effective corrective action. But he expressed sympathy for Capt Shelbourne, one of six men who survived the crash, who told the inquiry that he could remember nothing about the fatal flight.

He said: 'Never before in my experience have I seen a witness who was so clearly a broken man. I cannot, however, shrink from the responsibility placed upon me to determine that the cause of the accident was an error of judgement on the part of Captain Shelbourne.'

The Sheriff said that a garbled radio message may have distracted Capt Shelbourne's attention and a few seconds loss of concentration caused the tragedy. Shortly after the crash Capt Shelbourne, 30, volunteered for a Civil Aviation Authority medical examination. He was declared mentally unfit to fly and his pilot's licence was revoked for life.

The report said that Ian Hooker, the co-pilot who died in the crash, contributed to the disaster by failing to warn Capt Shelbourne of the helicopter's loss of speed.

Shell UK Exploration and Production, which operates the rig, was criticised for failing to provide effective rescue services.

The Sheriff said that the company did not enforce its own rules requiring a stand-by vessel to be told when helicopter flights were taking place. A boat should have been within 500 metres (550 yards) when the aircraft took off, but was two miles away trying to avoid heavy seas. He said: 'Had the stand-by vessel been advised of the movement of the helicopter and been in position . . . the deaths of some of the survivors of the accident might have been prevented.'

Shell said yesterday: 'The company took steps immediately after the accident to ensure that the procedures were adhered to.'

The Sheriff also said that some of those who died might have survived had the neck seals on their survival suits been zipped up fully. He called for all organisations involved in North Sea safety to carry out a combined inquiry into helicopter flights. This should include possible further restrictions on flying in bad weather.

The Civil Aviation Authority said it would be liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and government departments over the inquiry. A report by the Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Branch should be completed by the end of May.

Ronnie McDonald, secretary of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, the oil workers' union body, welcomed the report and particularly the call for the inquiry. He said: 'In the 28-year history of this industry no across-the-board regulations have been introduced and Shell had to introduce its own in-house rules.'

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
science
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game