NHS Shetland - Survey - March 2021

Helicopter wreckage brought to Lerwick harbour

The helicopter wreckage, covered by a white tarpaulin, arriving at Lerwick harbour

THE WRECKAGE of the Super Puma helicopter that crashed into the sea off Shetland claiming four lives last Friday was brought to Lerwick harbour in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The dive support vessel Bibby Polaris with the helicopter’s main fuselage on board arrived alongside Holmsgarth Five just after 4.30am.

Later in the day the wreckage is expected to be lifted onto another ship to be taken to Aberdeen for onward transport to Farnbrough for the main accident investigation.

Meanwhile, talks by the oil industry’s Helicopter Safety Steering Group will resume in Aberdeen on Thursday afternoon to decide whether the temporary ban on the use of Super Puma helicopters should continue.

The covered wreckage.

Important sections of the aircraft, including its gearbox, were located late on Wednesday, however the cockpit data recorder, which contains vital information about why the helicopter suffered a “catastrophic loss of power” remains missing.

John Henderson, managing director of local marine engineering firm Ocean Kinetics, said that they believe the black box is located at the Point of Garths Ness.

However sea conditions were too rough to explore the seabed, he said.

The Bibby Polaris and two smaller boats – the tour boat Ruby May and an Ocean Kinetics aluminium work boat – were searching an area on the west side of Quendale Bay, on Wednesday night.

A large orange marker buoy has been deployed and divers are understood to be inspecting the latest sections to be tracked down, including rotor blades, engines and parts of the cockpit.

The Bibby Polaris was initially due to head to Lerwick on Wednesday night to unload the main body of the helicopter, but was called back to the scene after the discovery. She eventually left for Lerwick at around 1am.

Henderson said: “Ocean Kinetics have successfully located, lifted and passed the gearbox and rotor head of the helicopter to the Bibby Polaris who took the parts on board.

More wreckage was found on Wednesday evening - Photo: Ronnie Robertson

“We have also located both engines and parts of the cockpit, which will likely be recovered on Thursday.

“We are still searching for the flight recorder which we believe is located at the Point of Garths Ness. There is a heavy swell running hampering diving operations.”

The police said they were continuing with their investigation into the accident, which cost four oil workers their lives.

Detective superintendent Malcolm Stewart, who is leading the inquiry, said:  “This investigation involves a number of officers from across Scotland and we currently have a team of 25 officers conducting enquiries in Shetland, with a similar number carrying out enquiries in Aberdeen.
 
“A number of resources from across Scotland have had to be deployed and there remains a large amount of complex and sensitive work to be carried out.
 
“In terms of the inquiry, officers are continuing to trace, interview and take statements from a large number of individuals, both on and offshore and this evidence will form an integral part of the ongoing investigation.”

All Super Puma flights were suspended after the crash and no decision has been taken on when the ban will be lifted.

Heavy swell at the Point of Garths Ness is making diving difficult - Photo: Ronnie Robertson

The union Unite has called for all Super Pumas to remain grounded until the black box has been recovered off Shetland allowing investigators to discover the cause of Friday’s fatal crash.

The RMT union held a rally at their Aberdeen office calling for improved safety, after calling off a rally outside the helicopter operator CHC’s headquarters after the company gave the union access to their offshore installations.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said it was “a massive breakthrough” that would allow the union to “build an organisation that can fight for real collective improvements to offshore working conditions including on the central issue of safety”.

Industry body Oil & Gas UK said they would be putting in place interim measures to ensure union representatives could still visit offshore installations despite the the shortage of helicopters due to the suspension of Super Pumas.

Further reading: 

Chopper’s missing blackbox still beaming out

Helicopter crash – live

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