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Politics / Carmichael condemns delays in helicopter accident inquiries

Four oil workers died when the Super Puma with 18 people on board plunged into the sea off Sumburgh - Photo: Peter Hutchison/Shetland NewsFour oil workers died when the Super Puma with 18 people on board plunged into the sea off Sumburgh in August 2013. Photo: Peter Hutchison/Shetland News

ISLES MP Alistair Carmichael has described the delays in holding fatal accident inquiries following major offshore tragedies as “unacceptable” and has called on the authorities to work together to help bring closure to the families affected.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday during a debate about offshore helicopter safety Carmichael said that it was now five and a half years since four oil workers died when a Super Puma helicopter crashed off Sumburgh and there was still no indication as to when or whether a FAI will be held.

Alistair CarmichaelIsles MP Alistair Carmichael: ‘…not an isolated incident.” Photo: Shetland News

“The four people who were killed in that came from different parts of the UK, from Inverness all the way down to Winchester. It is surely unacceptable that five and a half years after that tragic accident, that the families have still not had the closure that they will get from a fatal accident inquiry being held,” he said.

“This is not an isolated incident. The Super Puma helicopter which crashed about 24km to the North East of Peterhead in 2009 did not have the fatal accident inquiry held until 2013, so that was four years after the accident.

“We are now five and a half years, and we do not yet know if there are going to be prosecutions or a fatal accident inquiry.”

Carmichael said better cooperation between the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), the police and the procurator fiscal service was urgently needed.

He said: “I understand that the issues around fatal accident inquiries are complex and difficult, but it does not always have to take so long.

“My earliest involvement in this was as a student where I assisted the prosecutor fiscal conducting the fatal accident inquiry into the Cormorant Alpha helicopter disaster.

“That happened in March 1992 and the Fatal Accident Inquiry was completed by April 1993. We need to get back in a place where we are looking at the duration of these processes being measured in months, not years.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the RMT union called for a public and independent inquiry into helicopter safety as one way to provide clarity and certainty for workers over the future of offshore helicopter travel.

Thirty-three offshore workers and crew  died and 65 were rescued as a result of helicopter accidents across the North Sea  since February 2009.