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Details emerge from Super Puma helicopter crash

January 8, 2014  By The Telegraph

Jan. 8, 2014, Peterhead, Scotland - A helicopter that crashed into the North Sea killing all 16 people on board fell “silently” out of the sky after losing its rotor blades, an inquiry has heard.

An eyewitness who was on an oil rig supply boat said he heard the Super Puma
aircraft “buzzing” overhead before a sudden silence made him look up.

The account given by Lidvar Olav Hildre, a ship’s mechanic, was read out on
the first day of a fatal accident inquiry into the crash.

He said: "I saw on the starboard side of us an oblong shape falling like
a torpedo towards the sea. The object was obviously a helicopter but I
couldn't believe what I was seeing.


"It fell silently towards the sea. I don't think there was any smoke or
anything coming from the helicopter at that point.

"Just before the helicopter hit the sea, or just as the helicopter hit
the sea, I cannot be sure which, I saw one flame come from the helicopter. I
couldn't say exactly where on the helicopter this came from.

"There was then a big splash as the helicopter hit the sea in a bang,
then there was white smoke.”

Moments later, he saw “four large, black rotor blades all attached together
falling out of the sky towards the sea”.

The only eyewitness account of the accident emerged almost five years after
the Super Puma AS332 L2, operated by Bond, crashed on April 1, 2009, off the
Aberdeenshire coast.

Fourteen oil workers and two crew members died after the aircraft suffered a
catastrophic gearbox failure 12 miles off Peterhead. Eight of those who died
came from the north east of Scotland, seven from the rest of the UK, and one
from Latvia.

The Crown Office later announced, to the anger of the families, that there was
insufficient evidence for any prosecutions to take place.

Most of the victims worked for KCA Deutag Drilling and were returning from
BP's Miller platform when the accident happened.

The inquiry, which is expected to last about six weeks, will examine the
circumstances of the crash in a bid to prevent similar accidents.

Relatives of the victims were in the Town House in Aberdeen for the start of
the hearing, which began with a roll call of those who died. Some family
members wept as the accident was described.

Mr Hildre said debris was spread around an area of around 110 yards in
diameter and a fast boat launched by his vessel, the Normand Aurora, found
eight bodies on the water. They were tied together by the search team to
prevent them floating away.

The proceedings began with a request from the families for Bond Offshore
Helicopters to be compelled to make available the technical logs of all its
North Sea helicopters at the time.

Tom Marshall, representing 12 families, said the logs could prove that
workload was a factor in the aircraft's gearbox not being replaced, despite
a potential fault being discovered eight days prior to the accident.

However, Sheriff Derek Pyle refused the application, saying he did not want
the inquiry’s scope to widen, and did not want to embark on a “fishing

The first witness, Malcolm Paterson, 29, a trainee engineer with Bond
Helicopters at the time, told the inquiry he carried out pre-flight checks
on the Super Puma before the accident.

He said no faults were detected during checks carried out through the night,
and he learned about the accident after waking up later on April 1.

The two pilots who died were Capt Paul Burnham, 31, from Methlick, and
co-pilot Richard Menzies, 24, from Droitwich Spa. The oil workers who died
were: Brian Barkley, 30, James Costello, 24, Alex Dallas, 62, Stuart Wood,
27 and Vernon Elrick, 41, all from Aberdeen; Raymond Doyle, 57, from
Cumbernauld; James John Edwards, 33, from Liverpool; Nairn Ferrier, 40, from
Dundee; Nolan Carl Goble , 44, from Norwich, Gareth Hughes, 53, from Angus;
David Rae, 63, from Dumfries; Leslie Taylor, 41, from Kintore,
Aberdeenshire; Warren Mitchell, 38, of Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, and
Mihails Zuravskis, 39, from Latvia.

Another four oil workers, including the first female victim of a North Sea
helicopter accident, died when a Super Puma aircraft crashed into the water
off Shetland in August last year, in the fifth major helicopter incident in
the North Sea in four years. It was on approach to Sumburgh Airport with 16
passengers and two crew when it lost speed suddenly and dropped out of the


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