Three people were missing after a helicopter carrying 18 people crashed into the sea off the coast of Scotland on Friday.
The Coastguard said 15 people had been rescued and were taken to hospital, but three are unaccounted for.
The incident happened near the Shetland Islands, northeast of Edinburgh, and involved a Super Puma helicopter taking 16 passengers and two crew members to and from oil and gas platforms.
The Department of Transport issued an statement on behalf on the Air Accidents Investigation Branch stating it was “aware of incident” and has deployed a team. An air and sea search is continuing, with three helicopters and two lifeboats involved.
“Our two lifeboats are searching for those three unaccounted for,” said Tim Ash, a spokesman for Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Wreckage from the crash has been spotted, said Ash, who added that rescue teams were dealing with strong tides and poor visibility. “Winds are not particularly strong but visibility is not good. Those are the circumstances that our volunteers are facing,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Coastguard said two life rafts from the helicopter were located and found empty.
Saturday, 24 August, 2013 at 04:21 (04:21 AM) UTC RSOE
Helicopter Crash: Four Dead In North Sea
SKY NEWS 2:46pm UK, Saturday 24 August 2013
The helicopter suffered a “catastrophic loss of power” and ended up upside down in the North Sea, triggering a massive rescue.
“Police have named the four oil workers who died after a helicopter ditched into the sea on its way to Shetland.
(Video credit: turan utkan)
The victims are: Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland; Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin; Gary McCrossan , 59, from Inverness; and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.
The Super Puma L2 went down at approximately 6.27pm on Friday, around two miles west of Sumburgh airport as it was returning to Shetland from the Borgsten Dolphin platform.
The helicopter was carrying 16 workers and two crew.
“The bodies of three people have been recovered and work is underway to recover the body of the fourth person,” Police Scotland said in a statement.
The body of the fourth victim is understood to be in the wreckage of the aircraft.
All the families have been informed.
A search operation involving coastguard, police, RAF and local lifeboats was able to rescue 14 people from the sea, including the two crew. They were taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.
“Five were discharged and nine detained overnight either for observation or suffering from exposure,” the police statement said.
The helicopter is reported to be in several pieces but the wreckage has now been secured by the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).
Helicopter operator CHC, which operates in 30 countries, said on its website that it was temporarily suspending all Super Puma L2 flights worldwide as a precaution.
It has also suspended flights in Aberdeen “as a mark of respect”.
Amanda Smith, the mother of one of the workers, Sam Smith, said that her son had telephoned her from hospital after suffering cuts in the crash.
She told Sky News: “He said it seemed to lose power and there was no time to brace, they just dropped into the sea.
“He was by the window so he was able to escape that way as it rolled over.
“He said he had come off better than a lot of people. It didn’t seem real, I would say two hours later it’s just beginning to sink in.”
CHC said it was flying for French oil company Total and that the aircraft had lost communication as it approached the airport on the southern tip of Shetland’s main island.
The four people who died were working for Total through contractor organisations.
A CHC spokesman said: “The aircraft was on approach to Sumburgh Airport at approximately 6.20pm when contact was lost with air traffic control.”
Mark Abbey, regional director for CHC, expressed his “heartfelt sympathies to all those involved” but said the company would not be speculating about the cause of the crash.
Investigators from the Department for Transport’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch are looking into the incident.
The helicopter was upside down in the water when rescuers arrived, said Sky’s James Matthews in Aberdeen.
“At least three of the four who died had trouble getting out of the wreckage. One body remains in there this morning,” said Matthews.
The survivors were aided by waterproof immersion suits that helped keep them afloat and warm in the North Sea.
The tide – which was heading towards the land – also helped survivors.
Jim Nicholson, RNLI rescue co-ordinator, said: “There appears to have been a catastrophic loss of power which meant the helicopter suddenly dropped into the sea without any opportunity to make a controlled landing.”
Last year, two Super Puma helicopters ditched in the North Sea only six months apart.
All passengers and crew were rescued in both incidents, which were found to be caused by gearbox problems.
However, the latest incident marks the fourth in four years involving Super Puma aircraft.
In April 2009, 16 people died when a helicopter returning from BP’s Miller platform crashed 11 miles from Peterhead after a “catastrophic failure” in part of its main gearbox.
The Unite union’s Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said the safety record was “unacceptable” and called on the oil and gas industry to use “every means at their disposal to demonstrate that its fleet is fit for purpose”.
Bob Crow, head of the RMT union, said he expected an “outpouring of anger” after the latest incident.
“The entire Super Puma fleet must remain grounded until the causes of this latest event are established,” said Mr Crow.
CHC has set up a helpline for concerned relatives on 01224 296 866.
” – SKY NEWS
Shetland Helicopter Crash: Four Fatalities
(Video credit: VIRALTV2013 )
Shetland Helicopter Crash Four Dead Named
(Video credit: DailyNews779)
Published on Aug 24, 2013
They were Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.
Three of the four bodies have been recovered. Police Scotland confirmed 14 others were rescued.
The Super Puma L2 helicopter crashed west of Sumburgh Airport at about 18:20 BST on Friday.
An investigation into the cause of the tragedy is under way.
RNLI rescue co-ordinator Jim Nicholson said the helicopter – carrying workers from an oil rig – apparently suffered a “catastrophic loss of power”.
He said it appeared the aircraft had “suddenly dropped into the sea without any opportunity to make a controlled landing”.
Amanda Smith, whose son Sam was on the helicopter, told Sky News it suddenly lost power and those on board had “no time to brace”.
“He was by the window so he was able to escape that way as it rolled over,” she said.
“He said he had come off better than a lot of people, [those] were his words.”
Tim Ripley, an aviation expert with Jane’s Defence Weekly, told the BBC there were “many possible scenarios” behind the helicopter crash.
He said: “The most common one at low level for aircraft and helicopters is bird strikes.
“If one of these helicopters ingested a bird it would cause a very, very nasty accident.
“But it doesn’t seem like that because we have no reports of collisions, which points towards a failure of the engine and the mechanical systems on the helicopter.”
A total of 18 people were on board the helicopter.The 14 survivors, including the two crew members, were taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick for treatment.
Police Scotland said five were discharged a short time later and nine were detained overnight either for observation or suffering from exposure.
The ditched helicopter was found broken into several pieces up against rocks.
Boats, including a ferry and a cargo ship, joined lifeboat crews from Lerwick and Aith and helicopters from the coastguard, RAF Lossiemouth and two Bond rescue helicopters to search for survivors.
The AS332 L2 helicopter, carrying passengers crew from the Borgsten Dolphin oil rig in the North Sea, was operated by CHC for Total, taking people to and from oil and gas installations.
Oil firm Total confirmed that the three men and one woman who died all worked for contract organisations.
Earlier, Mr Nicholson told the BBC the helicopter had been in a “fairly inaccessible position… near the cliffs”, with weather in the area not “particularly good”.
A CHC spokesman confirmed that an L2 aircraft landed in the water, approximately two miles west of Sumburgh on Friday.
“The aircraft was on approach to Sumburgh Airport at approximately 6.20pm when contact was lost with air traffic control,” he said.
In a later statement, the company said the cause of the incident was unknown but Super Puma L2 flights would be suspended worldwide.
“Also, in deference to the incident and the investigation, we are suspending all flights [on] Saturday by our UK operations,” the company added.
Bond Offshore Helicopters also said it would not be operating any of its Super Puma aircraft fleet, with the exception of its Jigsaw rescue aircraft which would be available for life at risk missions.
Michael Bull, whose son Samuel was rescued, said: “We understand he was on his way back from a rig and the helicopter lost power suddenly and immediately ditched into the water.
“He managed to escape straight away because he was right by an exit and I understand soon afterwards that the helicopter turned over.”
Aith RNLI Lifeboat crew retrieve helicopter wreckage in Shetland
(Video credit: officialrnli)
Published on Aug 24, 2013
Aith Lifeboat crew tow Super Puma helicopter which crashed into the sea off Sumburgh, Shetland, on the night of 23/24 August 2013. Four lives were lost from the helicopter.