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Helicopter tragedy victims named

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  • Helicopter tragedy victims named

    The cause of the accident involving the Eurocopter is unknown
    Six men killed in a helicopter crash over the Morecambe Bay gas field off the Lancashire coast have been named.
    Passengers Robert Warburton from Heysham, Leslie Ahmed from South Shields, John Shaw from Kirkcaldy and Alfred Neasham from Durham were killed.

    Pilots Stephen Potton from Blackpool and Simon Foddering from Preston also died, and passenger Keith Smith from Stockton-on-Tees is still missing.

    The wreckage and helicopter's data recorder have not yet been recovered.

    Traumatised witness

    The helicopter, which took off from Blackpool Airport, was on a routine flight between rigs for gas firm Centrica when it crashed into the sea 24 miles off the coast on Wednesday evening.

    Lancashire Police say the helicopter, a Eurocopter AS365N, had flown to two gas rigs, and reared to the left and crashed 500 yards away from a third rig. No emergency call was received.

    Three people on the third platform witnessed the incident, and one of them who was due to get on the helicopter was described by police as "traumatised" by what they witnessed.

    Keith Mullett, from helicopter company CHC Scotia, said both pilots were experienced.

    Investigation launched

    Centrica's Sam Laidlaw said: "Our priority is to provide as much support as we can. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families at this terrible time."

    The Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) has launched an investigation into the incident.

    A rescue operation was launched involving RAF rescue helicopters from RAF Valley and RAF Leconfield, coastguard and RNLI crews, and a rig support vessel joined the search.

    Gas was discovered in the area in 1974 and extraction operations began 11 years later. There are about 143 Centrica staff working on the platforms at any one time.

    Surprise of helicopter tragedy
    By Nigel Pankhurst
    BBC News

    A helicopter carrying gas platform workers has crashed, with tragic consequences, in the sea off Morecambe Bay in Lancashire.

    Investigators now face the task of establishing what caused the aircraft, with seven people on board, to come down.

    The Eurocopter "Dauphin" had a good safety record

    A Eurocopter AS365N was on a routine flight over the gas fields of the Irish Sea when disaster struck 24 miles offshore.

    The job of determining what happened will be passed to inspectors from the Department for Transport's Air Accident Investigations Branch.

    According to David Learmount, safety expert with Flight International magazine, there are many reasons to be surprised that the tragedy occurred.

    "The company that operates the helicopter, which is CHC Europe, is the European branch of the biggest helicopter operator in the world. It is a global operator based in Canada," he said.

    "Its specialisation is in the area of offshore operations. They're a very professional outfit. They're not inclined to cut corners, and even if they were they wouldn't be operating in the UK because the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) keeps a very tight watch.

    "The reason why the CAA do that is because the North Sea and the Irish Sea is a very demanding environment. In this case the weather was relatively benign.

    "This helicopter is always crewed by two pilots although it can be flown by one. They have got two engines but can fly on one of them. It's a very well designed, modern helicopter."

    Warning systems

    "This sort of thing in the harsh offshore environment was not rare back in the 70s, 80s and early 90s but since that time things have changed dramatically. Events like this are very rare now, not just because helicopters are more modern but regulations are very strict now.

    Helicopters such as the AS365N - known as the "Dauphin" - feature warning systems which alert pilots in advance if anything is wrong.

    A British invention - the Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) - was developed by commercial companies in association with the CAA about 15 years ago.

    "Helicopters are mechanically complex. The system measures for vibrations which are abnormal. That means something's getting out of balance somewhere, so the pilot should get the helicopter on the deck," said Mr Learmount.

    'Dunker' training

    He says there are other features which would have added to the safety of the helicopter.

    This was sudden, this was disastrous

    David Learmount
    Flight International magazine

    Six dead in helicopter crash
    Fields a substantial supplier

    "In addition, this helicopter can ditch and float because they have flotation bags which can be deployed if you know you're going to set down in the sea," he said.

    "If the sea state is relatively calm the helicopter can float and even be towed to shore.

    "Even if the helicopter turned upside down, all the people that travel in these things get trained in a 'dunker', which is basically a cage in a swimming pool where they practise escape. They would all have wetsuits, they would all have life-jackets.

    Safety record

    He says whatever did happen to the aircraft - which is not clear at the moment - it would have happened very quickly

    "This helicopter has got a good safety record. There's no such thing as a dangerous helicopter. If they were dangerous they wouldn't be flying," he said.

    "There was no emergency call so whatever happened happened very fast. If something goes wrong with a helicopter it tends to happen very fast. You haven't got long before you hit the deck.

    "There is a very, very long list of possible causes. This was sudden, this was disastrous.".


    Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.

  • #2
    God rest them. I did a short stint on rigs and generally, the safety standards for helicopters is extremely high. A lot of rig-dwellers hate having to use them, but it beats the boats anyday.