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Helicopter crash - live

| Written by Hans J Marter

6.15pm - POLICE have confirmed that the body of the fourth person who died in Friday's helicopter accident off Shetland has been recovered from the wreckage of the Super Puma L2.

Meanwhile the fuselage of the helicopter has been lifted from the sea on to the diving support vessel Bibby Polaris.

The Coastguard emergency towing vessel Herakles and the Lerwick lifeboat assisted in the operation on Sunday afternoon.

Shetland area commander Angus MacInnes said police were continue with their investigation which is expected to take some time. A report is to be submitted to the procurator fiscal a later time.

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

"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 RNLI has just released above video which shows team inspecting the wreckage of the Super Puma helicopter, on Saturday afternoon.

The dive support vessels Bibby Polaris near the wreckage of the Super Puma helicopter - Photo: Garry Sandison The dive support vessels Bibby Polaris near the wreckage of the Super Puma helicopter - Photo: Garry Sandison Sunday, 11.30am - the salvage operation of the crashed Super Puma helicopter is now getting under way with the diving support vessel Bibby Polaris and the coastguard emergency towing vessel Herakles at the scene of the accident.

Once the last remaining body has been recovered from the wreckage, the helicopter will be lifted on to the Bibby Polaris and taken to Aberdeen or Peterhead.

The wreckage is then likely to be transported to Farnborough for the forensic investigation into what caused the accident.

Meanwhile, all Super Puma passengers flights to oil installations in the UK have been grounded. The cause of Friday's accident in which four oil workers died, is not yet known.

However, a Facebook site calling for Super Puma helicopters to be scrapped, has gathered support from more than 22,000 people since Saturday.

Retired helicopter engineer Peter Hutchison was one of the first to see the helicopter floating in the sea below Garths Ness - Photos: Peter Hutchison/ShetNews Retired helicopter engineer Peter Hutchison was one of the first to see the helicopter floating in the sea below Garths Ness - Photos: Peter Hutchison/ShetNews

4.50pm - THE first civilian eye witness on the scene of Friday night’s helicopter crash said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the upturned Super Puma L2 floating upside down in the sea.

Retired helicopter engineer Peter Hutchison was alerted less than half an hour after the chopper carrying 18 people ditched suddenly just off Shetland’s south mainland around 6.20pm, when he heard the distant sound of a rescue helicopter through the haze nearby.

“I thought to myself, that’s funny, it’s definitely not a training exercise, which I have been involved with many times,” the 71 year old said on Saturday.

Hutchison spent 34 years working on coastguard rescue helicopters at Sumburgh coastguard station and also trained as a winchman.

When he clambered over the rocks to the shore and looked out he thought he saw a liferaft in the distance, but when he looked again through his binoculars he was shocked by what met his eyes.

“The first thing I saw was three wheels stuck out of the water, and I thought, ‘my God that’s a helicopter’. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said.

“I knew straight away it was an L2 because it only has three wheels, one at the front and two at the back.”

Hutchison raced back home and picked up his camera and by the time he returned the ditched chopper was coming into the rocks at the point of Garth’s Ness, just a few hundred yards from where the Braer oil tanker grounded 20 years ago and spilled more than 80,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea.

“It was uncannily close to where the Braer came in, but of course that was a huge ship,” Hutchison said.

He stayed at the scene and watched the rescue operation involving the coastguard rescue helicopter, the offshore oil industry’s Jigsaw helicopter, lifeboats from Lerwick and Aith, the Sumburgh Airport fire and rescue boat, the NorthLink cargo vessel Helliar and the passenger ferry Hjaltland.

Shortly afterwards he was joined by local councillor Allison Duncan, by which time the wreckage was being supported by four fully inflated air bags with debris floating to the surface.

“There was one tail rotor that was floating into the geo about 30 or 40 yards from the helicopter and there was personal baggage of the 18 souls drifting into Quendale Bay,” Duncan said.

“It really brings the message home to you when this happens on your doorstep what a high risk job these brave oil workers are working in and that safety must be paramount at all times."

“And I have to pay tribute to the blue light agencies and how well they worked together in collaboration last night. Everyone was doing everything you could possibly ask of them.”

RNLI video:

3.40pm - Both the Lerwick and Aith lifeboats have just been called out to return to the crash site to assist clearing up the debris from the ditched Super Puma L2.

RNLI teams were out on Saturday to help with recovery of wreckage - Photo: RNLI RNLI teams were out on Saturday to help with recovery of wreckage - Photo: RNLI

RNLI team with helicopter wreckage; the Coastguard emergency towing vessel Herakles in the background - Photo: RNLI RNLI team with helicopter wreckage; the Coastguard emergency towing vessel Herakles in the background - Photo: RNLI

Council convener Malcolm Bell. Council convener Malcolm Bell.

3.30pm - Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell has paid tribute to the emergency services who saved lives by their fast response to Friday’s helicopter ditching.

He has also said questions must be answered to ensure such tragedies are avoided in the future.

Bell said: “I think I speak for everyone in Shetland in extending my sympathy to the individuals, their families and loved ones caught up in this tragic incident."

“I’d like to pay tribute to the efforts of all the services who have worked so hard over the past hours to deal with what is a very difficult and distressing event, and to those staff and volunteers across all our local support organisations who came forward to help out during this difficult time."

“The level of support from local businesses and the public makes me feel, not for the first time, very proud of our community."

“We have a set of plans in place to help us deal with incidents such as this, involving all the local agencies."

“They worked well last night, and continue to do so as the situation develops."

“Sadly, this is not the first time that Shetland has had to go through an experience like this and it demonstrates, all too clearly, the danger the brave men and women who work in these waters face on a daily basis."

“I would pay tribute to them and the resilience, strength and willingness of our local services and the people of Shetland in responding to this tragic event."

“Today, we remember and grieve for those who have paid the ultimate price. “In time many questions will have to be answered for we must strive to ensure that, whilst risk can never be fully eliminated, we reduce danger and potential for further tragic events as far as possible.”

3.10pm - St Magnus Church in Lerwick is open all day Saturday and Sunday for anyone wanting to say prayers for the victims and survivors of Friday night's helicopter crash. Prayers will be said for the victims in churches right across Shetland on Sunday.

From left: Shetland Coastguard sector manager John Webster, Shetland Islands Council chief executive Mark Boden, Shetland police area commander Angus MacInnes and NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts. From left: Shetland Coastguard sector manager John Webster, Shetland Islands Council chief executive Mark Boden, Shetland police area commander Angus MacInnes and NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts.

1.55pm - Police have imposed a two mile exclusion zone around the wreckage of the ditched Super Puma helicopter as they search for the final victim of Friday night’s tragic crash off Shetland’s south mainland, who is believed to be trapped in the aircraft.

What is left of the helicopter’s fuselage is being held in position near Horse Island west of Sumburgh by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency emergency towing vessel Herakles.

An anchor handler is due to arrive at 4pm to lift the wreckage from the sea.

Police have recovered three of the four victims who were named earlier, including 45 year old Sarah Darnley, believed to be the first woman to die in an offshore oil industry accident.

Of the 14 survivors, two are being kept in Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital, but their injuries are not life threatening and they are in a stable condition.

A further seven survivors are expected to be discharged this afternoon, while five were released from hospital on Friday night to stay in The Lerwick Hotel.

Up to 200 personnel have been caught up in the complex rescue operation, including volunteers from the RNLI, Red Cross and the coastguard.

Police chief inspector Angus MacInnes said 20 of his officers were involved and as many as 25 specialists from mainland Scotland were expected to fly in to help with the investigation.

Part of their job will be to walk the coastline and collect every scrap of wreckage for the accident investigation.

The salvage operation is being hindered by thick fog that stopped all flights in and out of Sumburgh airport during Saturday morning.

MacInnes said: “It is testament to the community spirit in Shetland that yet again we are faced with a tragic incident and again the partner agencies and the communities in Shetland rise to deal with the incident.”

12.10pm - A press conference is being held at Lystina House behind Lerwick Town Hall to brief journalists about the rescue operation last night.

10.45am - RNLI rescue co-ordinator Jim Nicholson has told the BBC the Super Puma L2 appears to have suffered "a catastrophic loss of power", suddenly dropping into the sea too quickly for the crew to make a controlled landing.

Amanda Smith, whose son Sam was on board, told Sky News passengers had "no time to brace".

"He was by the window so he was able to escape that way as it rolled over," she said.

The helicopter operator CHC has suspended all Super Puma L2 flights worldwide, as have Bond Helicopters.

A CHC spokesman added: "IN deference to the incident and the investigation we are suspending all flights on Saturday by our UK operations."

10.15am - Police said that work to recover the body of the fourth person was now underway.

Police Scotland assistant chief constable Malcolm Graham said: "Our sympathies are very much with the families of those affected at this difficult time. All families have been informed and specially-trained family liaison officers are currently providing them with support.

9.58am - Shetland MSP Tavish Scott is calling for the oil industry to rethink its use of Super Puma helicopters given their tragic history in the North Sea.

Saying the families of the three men and a woman who lost their lives must know why the helicopter ditched suddenly in the sea, Scott said: "There have been repeated serious and tragically fatal crashes involving Super Puma helicopters.

"The operators are right to ground the entire fleet, but there are now serious questions about why the Super Puma had been cleared to fly given its tragic record in recent years."

"The Sumburgh ditching is the same model of Super Puma that crashed off Peterhead with the loss of 16 lives."

"People across Shetland are thinking today of those lost and the incalculable impact on their families.

"I also want to thank the emergency services including the local lifeboats, auxiliary coastguard teams and so many others for the professionalism of the rescue operation."

The Shetland MSP, who has undertaken the offshore safety helicopter training in Aberdeen himself, added: "The oil industry must ask itself detailed questions about moving people to oil and gas rigs in the North Sea and west of Shetland.

"The shortest helicopter journey must surely be the best option with people being flown to the nearest airport by fixed wing aircraft.

"Men and women who work offshore must have confidence in the aircraft types they are being asked to fly in. I can't see how that can include the Super Puma."

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 accident. 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 accident.

9.25am - Police confirm that four people have died in Friday night's helicopter crash.

They are: Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland; Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin; Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness; and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.

Of the 14 survivors, five were discharged from hospital last night while nine were detained overnight for observations.Three of the four bodies have been recovered.

Meanwhile, emergency services in Shetland will hold a press conference at 11am. We will report from there.

8.45am - First minister Alex Salmond said “Our thoughts at this difficult time are with the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident. We also hope that those who were injured can make a full and speedy recovery."

"I would like to pay a massive tribute to all of those brave and hard-working individuals involved in the rescue effort and in treating the casualties when they were brought ashore."

“It is still too early to know what caused this terrible tragedy, but a full investigation by the relevant authorities is already under way."

Lerwick lifeboat stood down at around midnight and arrive back at the station at 1.15 - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews Lerwick lifeboat stood down at around midnight and arrive back at the station at 1.15 - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

8.20am - There continues to be uncertainty as to the number of people who have died in Friday night's helicopter crash off Fitful Head. Police Scotland have confirmed three casualties with one person still missing.

It is understood that one of the passengers rescued by helicopter died on his way to hospital, in Lerwick. Police said that 14 were rescued and are in hospital. Most of them are believed to be flown out later today (Saturday).

Lerwick lifeboat coaxwain Bruce Leask said his crew had recovered two casualties from the water late on Friday and landed them at Grutness Pier. He said the Super Pum

Leask said: “When we arrived at the scene we saw liferafts floating about and bits of wreckage in the water. We were set the task to search a certain area.a helicopter had broken up into two or three sections and was upside down held into position by the Aith lifeboat.

“Later on we heard that they had found all bar three and we were then set the task to find the remaining three."

“One of the helicopters then spotted casualties in the water and we were task to recover them. We recovered two from the water and landed them at Grutness.

“Aith lifeboat put a rope around the helicopter and towed it off the rocks. They are now holding it in shelter off Horse Island and are waiting for the Herakles (the emergency towing vessel) to arrive and to lift it off."

“The helicopter is badly broken up as it was bounding against the rock. It was upside down and certainly broken into two or three sections.”

Further reading: Three missing after chopper crashes off Fitful Head