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Court / Inquiry hears of tragic events that led to four people losing their lives near Sumburgh

AN INQUIRY into the events that led to the tragic helicopter crash near Sumburgh Airport on 23 August 2013 has heard that three of the four oil workers who died in the accident drowned.

The fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of Sarah Darnley, 45, of Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, of Inverness, Duncan Munro, 46, of Bishop Auckland and 57-year-old George Allison, of Winchester, got under way on Monday, seven years after the accident.

The four victims of the Super Puma crash in August 2013; clockwise from top left: George Allison, Gary McCrossan, Duncan Munro and Sarah Darnley.Passengers George Allison, 57, from Winchester, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin and Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, died in the accident.

The inquiry was initially due to be held before sheriff principal Derek Pyle at Inverness Sheriff Court but due to the Covid-19 pandemic evidence is now being taken via video conference facilities.

On Monday the inquiry heard how the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma helicopter with 16 passengers and two crew on board was on route from the Borgsten Dolphin oil platform to Sumburgh to refuel.

As the weather was deteriorating that evening the helicopter began to slow down and descend too rapidly, striking the sea around 1.7 nautical miles west of Sumburgh Airport.

All 18 people on board survived the impact of the helicopter crashing into the sea but three tragically drowned after sustaining head injuries.

The fourth, Gary McCrossan, died of a heart failure after he had managed to get into a life raft. Resuscitation efforts were made but he could not be saved.

The inquiry also heard from pilot Martin Miglans who said in a statement that he had been “destroyed” by the crash, adding that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

He described how he realised that the helicopter had been descending too rapidly when coming out of the clouds and seeing water. At this stage it was not possible for the helicopter to gain height again.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Brach (AAIB) found in 2016 that flight instruments were “not monitored effectively” by the pilots during the moments leading up to the crash.

The helicopter rapidly filled with water and rolled over but was kept afloat by the flotation bags which were deployed.

The inquiry is expected to last four weeks. During the first week it will hear from a number of passengers as well as specialists from the AAIB.