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North Sea Crash: 4 Dead, AS332-L2 Super Puma Grounded

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Offshore transport services firm CHC Helicopter reported Saturday that it has temporarily suspended all of its AS332-L2 Super Puma helicopters worldwide after Friday's crash in the North Sea that left four people dead.

Sixteen passengers and two crew members were on board the aircraft, said CHC. The firm added that 17 people, including three of the dead, have been accounted for, while one remains missing.

The helicopter, carrying oil and gas workers, was on approach to Sumburgh Airport on the Shetland Islands when it lost contact with air traffic control. According to CHC, it landed in the water approximately two nautical miles west of Sumburgh.

The Maritime Coastguard Helicopter from Sumburgh along with other rescue services promptly responded to the scene, CHC said.

The AS332-L2 Super Puma had travelled from Aberdeen to the North Alwyn platform and then on to the Borgsten Dolphin (mid-water semisub) rig before heading towards Sumburgh.

Total E&P UK issued a statement confirming that one of its employees was among the passengers and that other passengers represented 12 separate contractor organizations. The statement said that nine injured people were taken to hospital in Lerwick, Shetland, for treatment and that none of these is believed to be seriously injured.

Total said in addition to its emergency response, crisis management and relative response teams being mobilized Friday evening, "all necessary resources have been made available to provide every possible support and assistance to those who had been on board the flight and their families".

CHC Regional Director for the western North Sea Mark Abbey said at a press conference Saturday:

"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."

In a separate statement issued by trade body Oil & Gas UK, Chief Executive Malcolm Webb said:

"Oil & Gas UK expresses its profound sorrow at the news of the deaths and injuries resulting from yesterday's helicopter ditching off Shetland.  Our thoughts are first and foremost with all who were on this flight, their  families and their friends and we send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of all of those who have so tragically lost their lives.
 
"We also wish to thank and acknowledge all those persons involved in the, still continuing, search and rescue operation. Their prompt, professional action no doubt saved many lives and for that we are sincerely thankful."

Oil & Gas UK added that the Helicopter Safety Steering Group met Saturday afternoon to discuss the accident and has taken the precautionary measure of recommending temporary suspension of all Super Puma commercial passenger flights to and from offshore oil and gas installations in the UK.

The incident occurred just two weeks after a different variant of the Super Puma, the EC225, returned to service after problems with the helicopter’s main vertical gear shaft caused two ditchings last year.

 



A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at jmainwaring@rigzone.com

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