13 PEOPLE are confirmed dead after a helicopter chartered by Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil crashed on the shoreline of the island of Turøy, Norway on 29 April.
The helicopter, travelling from Statoil’s Gullfaks B platform, in the North Sea, to Bergen, experienced problems mid-flight, with Norwegian television footage showing what appeared to be a rotor blade falling to the ground before the main impact. Civil aviation data showed the helicopter had fallen 640 m in ten seconds, leaving wreckage across both the land and sea.
The Eurocopter EC225 aircraft was carrying two pilots and 11 passengers from the oil industry, including employees of Halliburton, Statoil and Schlumberger.
Eldar Sætre, president and CEO of Statoil said: “Statoil is a company in mourning[…] We were hit by one of the most severe accidents in the history of the Norwegian oil industry. Many families have been hit, and we have lost good colleagues and friends.”
The aircraft involved recently underwent unscheduled maintenance days before the accident. In a statement to the Press Association seen by the UK newspaper, the Guardian, CHC, the operator of the aircraft, confirmed the helicopter returned to base on 26 April after a warning light appeared.
Following inspection, a part was replaced and a test flight conducted. However, that flight was also aborted and another component changed when the warning light reappeared. Following a further, successful, test flight, CHC said that on 28 April the aircraft went on to complete six commercial flights with no indications of problems.
“None of the changed parts were physically connected to rotor or gearbox,” said CHC.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) will, with Statoil, investigate the full cause of the accident. Statoil will also launch its own investigation, using its own representatives and safety delegates.
Initial findings obtained from the helicopter’s flight recorder suggest the crash was caused by a technical fault rather than human error.
Kaare Halvorsen, director of the aviation department at the AIBN said at a press conference: “We are as certain as we can be that a technical error caused the accident. We don't think it was due to human misinterpretations.”
Statoil said it has temporarily grounded all EC225 chartered helicopters, pending the incident inquiry and is suspending production at Gullfaks B, to allow the company to tend to affected staff.
Statoil has published a full list of the victims’ names.
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