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Investigators search for cause of Super Puma crash

Aug. 28, 2013, Shetland, U.K. - Crash investigators are continuing to search the sea around Shetland in the hope of finding the black box recorder from a helicopter that plunged into the water on Friday, killing four oil workers.


August 28, 2013
By The Independent

Topics

The aircraft’s operator, CHC, has grounded all Super Puma
helicopters in the aftermath of the crash, with fellow operators Bond
Offshore Helicopters and Bristow also enforcing a temporary suspension
of non-emergency flights.

The groundings follow a
recommendation by the offshore industry's Helicopter Safety Steering
Group which urged the precautionary measure until there is “sufficient
factual information” to resume flights.

Specialist sonar
equipment has been transported to the crash site in an effort to trace
the missing black box, which was located on the aircraft’s tail section
when it ditched on approach to Sumburgh airport on the southern tip of
Shetland on Friday evening.

Once traced, the recorder
will be transported to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch
headquarters in Hampshire for examination, while the rest of the
wreckage is due to be transported to a mainland port.

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The
Super Puma was carrying 16 passengers and two crew from the Borgsten
Dolphin platform when it crashed into the sea, killing three men and one
woman.

Rescuers recovered three bodies in the aftermath of the incident and the fourth is expected to reach the mainland today.

Tributes
have been paid to the victims, who were named as Duncan Munro, 46, from
Bishop Auckland, County Durham; George Allison, 57, from Winchester,
Hampshire; Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Moray; and 59-year-old Gary
McCrossan, from Inverness.

Duncan Trapp, vice president
for safety and quality at CHC Helicopter, said the crash would be
“painstakingly investigated” to find out what went wrong.

“The
Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) will be reviewing information
including debriefs with pilots and passengers, air traffic records,
technical data and records, and the aircraft and its on-board systems,”
he said.

“We are fully supporting the early stages of the
investigation into the incident and will continue to give our full
co-operation to this process.”

The pilot of the helicopter is recovering in hospital with back injuries, while the co-pilot is recuperating at home, he said.

Around
80 representatives of oil and gas operators and major contractors
attended a “sombre” meeting in Aberdeen yesterday to discuss contingency
plans following the suspension.

Oil & Gas UK chief
executive Malcolm Webb said the summit had endorsed the Helicopter
Safety Steering Group's recommendation to temporarily ground CHC
helicopters.

Options being considered to ease the problem
of flight delays and backlogs include the use of alternative
helicopters, making better use of available flights and the possibility
of transferring workers by boat.

Mr Trapp said he understood that emotions in the offshore workforce were “raw” after the crash.

“There
has been a huge amount of work by everyone involved in safety in the
offshore oil-and-gas industry to mitigate the risks of working in and
travelling to offshore installations,” he said.

“Consultation
and collaboration between helicopter operators, the oil and gas
companies and the unions representing pilots and offshore workforce has
led to technical advances, improved predictability and the mitigation of
the risks flying in the North Sea presents.

“My message
and commitment to offshore workers and everyone with an interest in our
industry is that we will continue to do everything humanly possible to
ensure we get them to work and get home safely every time.”

The
Unite union has called for an emergency debate on offshore health and
safety when the Scottish Parliament reconvenes next week.

It
also urged the Scottish Government to support the fast-track of Fatal
Accident Inquiry (FAI) reforms, which are currently under public
consultation.

Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “On
Thursday we vented our anger over the current FAI process and the
ridiculous delays in starting the FAI into the 2009 Super Puma crash,
the agony this is causing victim's families and the fact that we do not
have legally enforceable outcomes from the process.

“This
will be of no comfort to the families impacted by Friday's catastrophe
but we need these reforms to our civil justice system in Scotland and we
need them now.”

There have been five North Sea incidents
involving Super Pumas since 2009. In April that year an AS332 L2,
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.

The
other three ditchings involved the EC225 model which saw flights
temporarily suspended. CHC returned the model to commercial service only
earlier this month.

An investigation by the Air
Accidents Investigation Branch found that two of the incidents were the
result of gearbox failure and new advice on checks for the EC225 were
issued as a result. A fatal accident inquiry is expected to be held into
the 2009 fatal AS332 L2 crash in Aberdeen next year.


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