LONDON (Reuters) - Four people were killed when a helicopter carrying oil workers crashed into the sea off Scotland’s Shetland islands, the fourth incident in the area involving different models of the widely used aircraft in just over four years.
The Super Puma L2, made by EADS unit Eurocopter, was carrying 16 passengers and two crew, and was operated by CHC Helicopter for France’s Total, CHC said.
The helicopter lost contact with air traffic control and crashed into the sea as it approached Sumburgh airport, on the coast of Shetland, a cluster of islands more than 100 miles off the northeastern tip of mainland Scotland, on Friday.
The mother of one of the survivors told Sky News, “He said it seemed to lose power and there was no time to brace. They just dropped into the sea. He was by a window so he was able to escape that way as it rolled over.”
Scottish police said three bodies had been recovered and work was under way to recover the body of the fourth. Sky News said the fourth body was in the wreckage. All those killed - three men and one woman - were passengers.
All four were contractors and only one Total employee was on board, a Total spokeswoman. The others were from 12 separate contractor firms, she said.
All 14 passengers and two crew died in April 2009 when Super Puma crashed off Peterhead on the east coast of Scotland on its way back from BP’s Millier oil platform.
Last year the crew of a Super Puma ditched the aircraft in the North Sea after a gearbox failure and, also last year, all 19 on another Super Puma were rescued after it ditched during a flight from Aberdeen to the West Phoenix rig, west of Shetland.
CHC said it would not speculate on the cause of the incident and it would carry out an investigation with Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB). It temporarily suspended its Super Puma L2 flights worldwide and all flights in Aberdeen.
A Eurocopter spokesman said the company was supporting CHC and the authorities with their investigations. AAIB Chief Inspector Keith Conradi told the BBC that the group expects to publish a report containing safety recommendations within the next few days after reviewing the wreckage and black box data.
Bob Crow, general secretary of offshore union RMT said that workforce confidence in Super Puma aircraft had already been hit by previous incidents.
“We will support any member who refuses to board any suspect aircraft type in light of this disaster,” he said.
Reporting by Brenda Goh and Andrew Heavens; Editing by Louise Ireland