Shetland helicopter crash: Final body recovered from sea

Footage from the RNLI shows the salvage operation, as Laura Bicker reports

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The body of a fourth person has been recovered from the wreckage of a helicopter which crashed off Shetland.

Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester died in the incident.

Three bodies were recovered on Friday, shortly after the Super Puma ditched.

Another 14 people were rescued after the helicopter apparently suffered a "catastrophic loss of power".

The wreckage of the helicopter has now been lifted onto the deck of a diving support vessel.

RNLI rescue co-ordinator Jim Nicolson said it appeared the aircraft had "suddenly dropped into the sea without any opportunity to make a controlled landing".

The Super Puma AS332 L2 had been carrying 16 passengers and two crew from the Borgsten Dolphin oil rig when the incident happened at about 18:20 BST on Friday.

An investigation has not yet established the cause of the tragedy.

Ch Insp Angus MacInnes said: "The fourth person was recovered from the wreckage a short time ago and we have deployed family liaison officers to support those who have lost loved ones.

Start Quote

Sarah lived life to the full, she was easy-going and a one-off. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her”

End Quote Sarah Darnley's mother, Anne

"We are also working with the industry to help support all of those affected."

He added: "Friday's incident has had a huge impact on those who work or have relatives in the oil and gas industries but also the communities in Shetland and Aberdeen.

"There is a tangible sense of mourning and shock in the area and there is unlikely to be anyone who hasn't had this on their minds over the last few days."

The salvage operation had been ongoing throughout the day in thick mist in Quendale Bay off the southern tip of Shetland.

It is hoped information on the helicopter's black box data recorder will help establish the cause of the crash.

All Super Puma helicopter passenger flights to UK oil installations have been suspended following the incident.

Family's shock

Oil firm Total said the four who died worked for contract organisations.

Stork Technical Services paid tribute to its employee, Gary McCrossan.

Mike Mann, a senior vice president at the firm, said: "Our heartfelt condolences go out to Gary's family and to all of those affected by this tragedy. We are doing all we can to assist the family at this difficult time."

The Nigg oil yard in Easter Ross where he worked cancelled the nightshift on Saturday as a mark of respect.

Alastair Kennedy, of yard operator Global Highland, said hundreds downed tools in a "moving tribute".

The family of Mr Munro described him as a "devoted husband" and a "fabulous" father.

In a statement, relatives said: "He will be sadly missed by everyone that knew him and his death will leave a large void in a lot of people's lives.

"His family would like to thank everyone for their kindness and support since they received the tragic news. They would also like to pass on their sincere condolences to the other families who have lost loved ones in this tragic incident."

Ms Darnley's mother Anne spoke of her family's shock and said her daughter was "a fun-loving free spirit".

She said in a statement: "She enjoyed her job. She had great camaraderie with her colleagues and over the years she made some fantastic friends whom she was able to visit in various parts of the world, including South America and Thailand.

"Sarah lived life to the full, she was easy-going and a one-off. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her."

Clockwise from top left: George Allison, Sarah Darnley, Gary McCrossan, Duncan Munro Four people died in the incident. Clockwise from top left: George Allison, 57, Sarah Darnley, 45, Duncan Munro, 46, Gary McCrossan, 59
Rescuers approaching a life raft from the crashed helicopter Rescuers approaching a life raft from the crashed helicopter
RNLI volunteers inspect the helicopter wreckage RNLI volunteers inspect the helicopter wreckage
RNLI volunteers retrieved helicopter wreckage An RNLI boat approaches the remains of the upturned helicopter
A Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma L2 variant - the same model as the CHC operated helicopter that crashed in the North Sea off the coast of the Shetland Islands All Super Puma helicopter passenger flights to UK oil installations have been suspended

Shetland coastguard manager John Webster said a heavy-lift ship was being used to collect helicopter wreckage from the sea.

He said coastguard crew had been shocked by the incident, but most were "holding out well".

"We've dealt with a few air crashes before," he said.

"Each one is different but each is as sad as the last."

Mr Webster said they had been alerted to the crash by the ARCC (Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre) who said an inbound helibus had disappeared off the radar.

"That was the first indication that we had that something serious had happened, and we mobilised our helicopters, ground teams and lifeboats to the last known position," he said.

"Of course when the units got near the position they saw the wreckage of the helicopter, which was actually upside down at the time."

PREVIOUS NORTH SEA INCIDENTS

  • October 2012 - All 19 people on board a Super Puma EC225 were rescued safely after it put down in the sea off Shetland. The incident was caused by a cracked shaft in the main gearbox
  • May 2012 - All 14 people on board a Super Puma EC225 were rescued when it came down about 30 miles off the coast of Aberdeen during a flight to an oil rig
  • April 2009 - All 14 passengers and two crew on board a Super Puma AS332L2 lost their lives after it came down in the North Sea. Eight of the victims came from the north east of Scotland, seven from the rest of the UK, and one from Latvia. A fatal accident inquiry is planned for October
  • February 2009 - A Super Puma EC225 ditched in fog a short distance from a BP oil platform in the ETAP field, 125 miles east of Aberdeen. All 18 people on board survived. Crew error and a faulty alert system were blamed

Police Scotland said 12 of those rescued were back in Aberdeen. Two others were still being treated at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.

The Helicopter Safety Steering Group - which is made up of oil industry representatives - plans to meet again on Wednesday to review its position on the grounding of Super Pumas, and said it would reconvene before then if any significant information came to light.

CHC, which operated the helicopter that crashed two miles west of Sumburgh Airport on Friday, grounded its UK fleet and some models world-wide.

Bond and Bristow also suspended UK Super Puma flights.

Super Puma manufacturer, Eurocopter, thanked those involved in the search and rescue operations for "prompt action" which "saved many lives".

Guillaume Faury, Eurocopter's CEO, said: 'We all at Eurocopter are deeply saddened by this accident. This is a tragedy for all of us.

"We express our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives.

"Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the workforce in the North Sea."

Last year, Super Puma helicopters crashed in two incidents, one off Aberdeen and another off Shetland, but these involved the EC225 variety of the aircraft.

All passengers and crew were rescued in both incidents which were found to have been caused by gearbox problems.

Super Puma EC225s were grounded following the crashes but were given the go-ahead to resume flying again earlier this month.

Bob Crow, general secretary of offshore union RMT, said there was a lack of workforce confidence in the Super Puma type aircraft, and unions had been working with the industry to address their members' concerns.

About 26,000 people work for more than 100 nights a year offshore in the UK.

Other aircraft serve the UK industry, including Agusta Westland helicopters. It is hoped other makes of helicopters can be drafted in to help ferry workers to and from oil installations.

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