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 He was declared mentally unfit to fly and his pilot's licence was revoked for life.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.'

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Science Teacher - Maternit...

Systems and Network Administrator

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: We are recruiting for a Systems and ...

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album