Airbus takes blame for North Sea helicopter ditching

Lawyers representing several passengers injured when a Eurocopter Super Puma helicopter came down in the North Sea 32 miles south west of Shetland in October 2012 have welcomed an acceptance of responsibility from the helicopter manufacturer which, they say, now paves the way for settlements to be agreed.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team represents 12 oil rig workers injured when the CHC-operated Super Puma EC225 was put down in the sea between Shetland and Orkney, due to a failure of the gearbox lubrication system and a false warning in the emergency lubrication system.

Lawyers at the firm, who also represent victims of the fatal helicopter accidents at the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow in November 2013 and the Super Puma crash off Shetland coast in August 2013, have now received written confirmation from the manufacturer, Airbus Helicopters (previously Eurocopter), stating that it accepts that it is solely responsible for the failures which led to the crew ditching the aircraft causing both physical and psychological injuries to those on-board.

The admission follows a comprehensive report into the incident by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) published earlier this month which concluded that a component in the gearbox lubrication system had failed (the component being the bevel gear vertical shaft). After that, an incorrect warning wrongly indicated to the helicopter crew that the emergency lubrication system had failed. These events caused the crew to take the decision to make an emergency ditching into the waters of the North Sea.

The passengers and crew evacuated the helicopter and boarded two life rafts before being rescued and transported to a nearby ship. Several passengers have reported that they believed they were going to die.
Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team representing victims of the October 2012 ditching, said: “We welcome this formal acceptance of responsibility from Airbus Helicopters for the worrying failures that led to this helicopter being ditched into the North Sea.”

“Fortunately everyone survived this terrifying incident but several of the passengers have suffered physical and serious psychological injuries as they were genuinely resigned to the fact that they may die. Many are still suffering from the effects to this day and need specialist therapy such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy which we hope will help them come to terms with they went through.

“There have been a number of adverse incidents involving Super Puma helicopters in recent years. We now hope that the issues identified in the recent accident report are fully addressed as soon as possible to prevent any similar incidents in future.”

Jonathan Garcia, an ROV Pilot Technician who suffered psychological trauma in the October 2012 ditching, said: “It has been a long wait for answers regarding the incident but, if any good is to come of it, it will be that steps are taken to improve offshore helicopter safety in the long term.”

“Barely a day goes by when I do not think of the ditching. It was incredibly traumatic. Thankfully now that Airbus Helicopters has accepted responsibility, we should be able to start moving forward and receive the help and support we need to be able to move on with our lives.

“I hope that the aviation authorities and helicopter operators take the necessary steps to prevent anyone else going through what I have had to experience.”


 July 04, 2014


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