Shetland Helicopter Tragedy

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The Shetland helicopter crash victims

Last night we lost four people to the latest Super Puma crash: Duncan Munro, 46; Sarah Darnley, 45; Gary McCrossan, 59; and George Allison, 57.

There is a sick irony in the name Super Puma, and a sad reality in it being involved in a fifth accident in four years: (data from BBC Website)

  • October 2012 – All 19 people on board a Super Puma EC 225 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 EC 225 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.

If this were a car manufacturer they would all be recalled and action would be taken, instead there are fudges and the risking of people’s lives by the lack of real action. Pilots, crew and passengers are relying on these other groups like CHC and EuroCopter to get it right. Just two weeks ago, on the 7th of August, the EC 225 Super Pumas were reintroduced and now this happens with the L2 model of the same brand. If companies want people to go offshore and work on the rigs then they need to be as sure as they can be about the reliability of the transport they are taking – what confidence can the next workers have when the Pumas are back in action?

These men and women are our families, friends and neighbours. When this type of tragedy happens it affects all of us in this area as we all know people who could be on board one of the choppers; we’re left wondering if it will be someone we know. With the amount of money involved in the industry and the great leaps in health and safety we’ve had since the 1980s why can those in the position to, not get this aspect right?  Accidents will occasionally happen and whether we like it or not it’s a fact of life when dealing with this type of industry – but when there are this many questions and previous tragedies involving the same type of aircraft profits need to be put to one side and the interests and lives of the workers must be at the forefront of oil companies and associated businesses minds.

If we want workers to get on those vehicles then we need to more than send them on OPITO courses and survival training, we must have the highest confidence in the safety of the helicopters before we put another person on them. While it is not a time for pointing fingers – as official investigations will see this happens – we must be ready to ask the difficult questions that this leaves us with regarding all models of the Super Puma helicopter and their future in the oil industry.

My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this and plead that this is not another occasion where we fail to learn from our experiences.

JD

PS. The RNLI are the unsung heroes in these events so if you can spare a few quid there is a Just Giving page for them set up in memory of the tragedy here https://www.justgiving.com/supportthernli

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