Police Start Probe into Incident Onboard North Sea Rescue Vessel

LONDON Sep 24, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The police said Monday it had started a probe into the death of three crew on a U.K. North Sea rescue vessel on stand-by for a BP PLC (BP)-operated field.

The accident, at a vessel owned by U.K. company Vroon Offshore Services Ltd., underscores the harsh conditions and safety risks faced by the oil and gas industry in this key producing region.

A spokeswoman for the police in Hull, Humberside, where the bodies were repatriated said a postmortem should be concluded in a day or two. She added the probe into the circumstances leading to the deaths would start afterward.

A spokeswoman for Vroon said a separate probe by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, or MAIB, had started. She said a team sent by the MAIB had boarded the vessel and were interviewing the crew. Vroon also has its own team investigating the incident, she said.

The vessel was supporting a drilling rig on BP's Amethyst natural gas field in the southern North Sea.

But the spokeswoman for Vroon said the accident was being treated as a maritime incident, not as an oil and gas one. She said that was because the vessel was more than 500 meters from oil and gas facilities and was on "stand-by."

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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