Helicopter halt after sea rescue

Nineteen people are safe after the helicopter they were on ditched in the North Sea 14 miles west of Fair Isle between Orkney and Shetland

Nineteen people are safe after the helicopter they were on ditched in the North Sea 14 miles west of Fair Isle between Orkney and Shetland

First published in National News © by

The operator of a helicopter that was safely ditched in the sea with 19 people on board is temporarily suspending flights with the model.

The CHC-operated helicopter was carrying an oil crew from Aberdeen to a rig 86 miles north-west of Shetland when it ditched at around 3.30pm on Monday.

Three RNLI lifeboats were launched from Kirkwall in Orkney and Aith and Lerwick in Shetland to go to the aid of the 17 passengers and two crew.

When they arrived all 19 had already been taken from their life-raft by a fast rescue craft launched from the the Nord Nightingale vessel which was close to the scene, about 32 miles south-west of Shetland. They were taken back to the tanker and flown by RAF and Bond rescue helicopters to Kirkwall in Orkney. No one was injured.

On Monday night passenger Michael Mashford told BBC Reporting Scotland: "We got a call saying we were going to ditch, the pilots were absolutely amazing, they brought us down in a controlled landing using the flotation devices about half a mile from a large vessel."

The ditching of the EC225 Super Puma is the fourth serious helicopter incident in three years and CHC have now said flights using the EC225 model are being temporarily suspended.

Nick Mair, regional vice president of western North Sea at CHC, said: "CHC's primary objective is always the safety of our passengers and people, and our pilots' actions today are consistent with that. The most important fact is that our customers and people are safe. We have spoken with the crew and we understand that no one is injured. Plans are under way for the recovery of the aircraft. We are temporarily holding flights using the same type of EC225 aircraft pending receipt or confirmation of certain information from the crew involved in today's incident and technical follow-up."

CHC said arrangements are being made to return those involved back to Aberdeen from Orkney.

A team from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch is travelling to the north east of Scotland to determine the cause of the incident.

A spokesman for Eurocopter, the French company which manufactures the Super Puma EC225, said it was investigating the incident with the operator and authorities "with the highest priority". He said: "Eurocopter is not able to further comment at this stage and is mobilising a team of specialists to provide additional support alongside its existing personnel in Aberdeen."

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