SNP - Tom Wills

Court / Fatal accident inquiry to be held into Sumburgh helicopter crash

Renewed calls for the FAI process to be overhauled

The helicopter salvage operation under way in August 2013. Photo: Garry Sandison

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has welcomed an announcement by the Crown Office that an inquiry will be held into the fatal helicopter crash off Sumburgh almost six years ago.

Four oil workers, George Allison, Sarah Darnley, Duncan Munro and Gary McCrossan, died and 14 others were rescued when the Super Puma aircraft crashed while approaching Sumburgh Airport on 23 August 2013.

Scott and others repeatedly called for such an inquiry to be held but the Crown Office had always maintained that investigations into the circumstances of the tragedy were still ongoing.

On Wednesday the Crown Office said: “Crown Counsel have instructed that a Fatal Accident Inquiry be held into the deaths of Duncan Munro, Sarah Darnley, Gary McCrossan and George Allison, who were passengers being transported from North Sea oil and gas platforms to the mainland.

“The investigation by the police, with officers working closely with the COPFS [Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service] Helicopter Team, has been complex and challenging. COPFS will now work closely with the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service [SCTS] to make suitable arrangements for holding the inquiry.”

A date for the inquiry has not yet been announced.

Scott said: “I am very pleased that the uncertainty is now over. It has taken too long for a FAI to be confirmed.

“Families who lost love ones have had to live under this cloud for too many years. But at least now the inquiry can find out what happened and why.

“The families of the bereaved deserve answers and that will now finally happen.

“On the wider point about the length of time since the helicopter crash and the loss of life, I want the government to consider reforms to the process to speed this up. This has simply taken too long.”

Meanwhile the general secretary of offshore workers union RMT, Mick Cash, also called for the judicial processes to be overhauled to avoid delays for many years.

The time that has elapsed since this event illustrates that the process for considering prosecution and conducting inquiries is broken,” he said.

“This inquiry will quite obviously be difficult for the families of those lost, including the loved ones of our member Sarah Darnley who was killed in this tragedy.

“It will be traumatic for those who survived as they will have to go through all of those harrowing events again. It will also resurrect the whole issue of helicopter safety generally for the entire offshore workforce.

“We would therefore suggest the Public Inquiry we have long lobbied for around the potential impact of commercial pressures on helicopter operations, which the Transport Select Committee recommended should be held in 2014, should be staged now.”

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