THE SUPER PUMA L2 helicopter that crashed off Shetland on Friday claiming four lives was upright and still in one piece when it hit the water, the Air Accident Investigation Branch said on Thursday morning.
In a brief statement the AAIB said that the helicopter struck the sea about two miles west of the Sumburgh airport runway and then started to drift rapidly towards Garths Ness.
The chopper was largely broken up by repeated contact with the rocky shoreline, investigators said in their first preliminary report following the accident.
At this stage it was not possible to determine the cause of the accident, they said.
“Preliminary information indicates that the approach proceeded normally until approximately three miles from the runway when there was a reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent.
“The evidence currently available suggests that the helicopter was intact and upright when it entered the water.
“It then rapidly inverted and drifted northwards towards Garths Ness. The helicopter was largely broken up by repeated contact with the rocky shoreline.
“Some items of wreckage have already been recovered and will be transported to the AAIB’s HQ in Farnborough.
“Attempts to recover the combined voice and flight data recorder, together with other wreckage items, are continuing. This is a challenging operation due to the nature of the environment in which the wreckage is located.
“The investigation is ongoing and at this early stage it is not possible to identify the causal factors leading to the accident,” the AAIB statement said.
Twelve oil workers and two crew survived the accident, and are being interviewed by specialists from the AAIB.
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