Petrobras Helicopter Accident Death Toll Climbs to Four

With one oil worker still missing, Petrobras stated that the search is still on for the last passenger who was aboard the Super Puma L2 when it went down.

Petrobras reported Feb. 27 that the helicopter had to make an emergency landing in rough seas, despite reports that weather conditions had been favorable for takeoff.

Despite "weather conditions...appropriate for the flight," the helicopter made the emergency landing at sea when it was unable to maintain altitude. Of the 20 people on board the aircraft, 15 were rescued alive at sea. Three of the 20 people aboard were crew members, including copilot Sergio Ricardo Muller who has been hospitalized and is reported to be in stable condition.

The helicopter, a Super Puma L2 owned and operated by a subsidiary of CHC Helicopter Corporation, was forced to land on the water 75 miles offshore Brazil. It remained floating for a couple of hours, according to news reports. The aircraft eventually sank to a depth of 900 yards where two additional bodies were identified Feb. 27 by search and rescue robots.

"Floaters were activated immediately after the emergency landing at sea, at around 4:30 PM," reported Petrobras. "The helicopter then remained for a few more hours in the capsized position before sinking, near platform P-18, in the Marlim field, some 120 km of the coast and at a water depth of 820 meters. The sea was choppy and winds moderate when the crash occurred."

Reports indicate that the aircraft carried 17 oil workers and three crew members. The helicopter was flying from a rig offshore Brazil to Macae.

Petrobras stated that the search and rescue will continue. The search involves 13 vessels, one Brazilian Air Force jet, and three helicopters "on call in the area, one of which [is a] medical airvac chopper." Four of the vessels are equipped with submarine robots. Eight of the vessels are surface-survey crafts. A Brazilian Navy vessel is also involved in the search and rescue.

In 2002, StatoilHydro grounded half of their helicopter fleet for inspection after a pendulum weight in the rotor head created substantial damage to a main rotor blade. All of the aircrafts grounded by StatoilHydro were Super Puma L2 helicopters. The helicopter involved in the accident Feb. 26 was built by Eurocopter in 2002.

Two other Super Puma L2s currently under contract by Petrobras have been grounded until inspections can be carried out.

Dow Jones reported that oil workers' unions "have protested about frequent deadly accidents involving companies providing services for Petrobras."

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