HSSG has taken the precautionary measure of recommending temporary suspension of all Super Puma commercial passenger flights to and from offshore oil and gas installations within the UK. This does not apply to the use of search and rescue helicopters for emergency response.
To remind, a CHC Helicopter AS332-L2 aircraft was on approach to Sumburgh Airport at 18.30 BST (17.30 UTC/GMT) on Friday, August 23, when contact was lost with air traffic control.
The helicopter crashed into the water, approximately two nautical miles west of Sumburgh. It had travelled from Aberdeen to the North Alwyn platform and then on to the Borgsten Dolphin before heading toward Sumburgh.
Eighteen people were on board the helicopter at the time of the incident. 16 passengers and two crew. Four people died.
According to Police Scotland, the bodies of three people have been recovered and work is underway to recover the body of the fourth person.
Police Scotland revealed the names of the four people who died in the accident. They are Duncan Munro, aged 46, from Bishop Auckland, Sarah Darnley, aged 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, aged 59, from Inverness, George Allison, aged 57 from Winchester.
Fourteen people were taken to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick for treatment, including the two members of crew. Five were discharged and nine detained overnight either for observation or suffering from exposure, said Police Scotland in a statement issued yesterday.
The cause of the accident is still unknown. According to several sources, the aircraft lost power and hit the sea.
“The helicopter just dropped, no time to brace. It rolled when it hit the water,” one survivor told Sky News.
Mark Abbey, Regional Director, Western North Sea for CHC Helicopter said:
“CHC will not enter into any speculation as to what caused the incident but rest assured a full investigation will be carried out in which we will co-operate fully with all the regulatory bodies and share any learnings with the industry.”
CHC said in a statement on its website it would act according to the HSSG advice and ground all of its flights to and from offshore oil and gas facilities within UK.
“We believe that engineering and operating differences associated with AS332L/L1 and EC225 aircraft warrant continuing flights with those aircraft. However, in order to give us an opportunity to take stock of any implications associated with Friday’s accident, we will not fly AS332Ls/L1s/L2s anywhere in the world on Sunday, Aug. 25, except for life-or-death search-and-rescue missions.”
“We do not know the cause of the Friday incident. A full investigation will be carried out in conjunction with the U.K. Air Accident Investigation Branch.”
There have been four helicopter ditching incidents in the UK, the latest one not included, involving Eurocopter Super Puma aircraft in 2009.
In February 2009 a Bond operated Super Puma EC225 came down 125 miles east of Aberdeen. The 18 people on board, 16 passengers and two crew, were all rescued.
The worst incident occurred in April 2009, when a Bond operated Super Puma ES332 L2 ditched 11 miles north east of Peterhead on return from a BP Platform in the Miller field. The 16 people on board, 14 passengers and 2 crew, were killed.
In May last year a Bond operated Super Puma EC225 came down 25 miles east of Aberdeen in a controlled landing on water. The 14 people on board, 12 passengers and two crew, were rescued.
In October 2012, a CHC-operated Super Puma EC225 came down 32 miles south of Shetland in a controlled landing on water. The 19 people on board, 17 workers and two crew, were all rescued.