Norway helicopter crash: Super Pumas grounded worldwide

Move comes after Fridays crash in the North Sea that killed 13 people

All commercial flights using the type of helicopter that crashed in Norway on Friday, killing 13 people including a Briton, have been grounded worldwide.

Eleven bodies have been found after the Airbus Super Puma aircraft crashed near the island of Tury on Friday. Two people remain missing and are feared dead.

The helicopter was carrying oil workers to the mainland from Statoils Gullfaks B oil platform in the North Sea when it came down.

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said: We have offered our support to the family of a British national who has sadly died in a helicopter crash in Bergen, Norway. Our thoughts are with all those affected. We will remain in contact with local authorities.

Norways joint rescue coordination centre recovered 11 bodies but called off the search for the two remaining passengers five hours later, saying they could not have survived the crash.

The flight was operated on behalf of the Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil by a Canadian firm, CHC Helicopter Service. Statoil said one of the passengers was an employee, although all were on a mission for the firm.

The other passengers worked for the US oilfield services companies Halliburton and Schlumberger, Norwegian firms Aker Solutions and Karsten Moholt, and Welltec, a Danish robotics company, Statoil said.

The Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, described the incident as horrifying. Arne Sigve Nylund, Statoils vice-president, said it was a terrible tragedy.

Nylund added: It is with great sorrow we have received the message that 13 people have been involved in this accident. More than anything, our thoughts are now with those who have lost their loved ones, and an entire industry extends its sympathy to them.

We will now do everything we can to give them our support and assistance. The deceased were employed in different companies, but they were all on a mission for Statoil.

The Norwegian civil aviation authority said the crashed helicopters flight recorders, the so-called black boxes, had been recovered. It said it had imposed a flight ban on the type of helicopter that crashed.

An authority official told the Norwegian paper VG that maintenance servicing on the crashed aircraft had been delayed twice last year.

On Friday night the British Civil Aviation Authority said it was suspending flights of that type of Airbus Super Puma helicopter.

Following the accident, the UK CAA has issued an instruction to stop any commercial passenger flights by UK operators flying the Airbus EC225LP helicopter, a spokesman for the regulator said.

The joint rescue coordination centre said the wreckage of the rotor was found onshore, 200-300 metres from the rest of the helicopter, which was lying under water. Witnesses described seeing the rotor blades detach and the aircraft spiral downwards, followed by a powerful blast.

Rebecca Andersen told the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang that the helicopters rotor blades came rushing toward us. Then we heard a violent explosion.

The air traffic monitoring site Flightradar24 said the helicopter plunged 195 metres (640ft) in 10 seconds.

Norway map

A resident told the local paper Bergensavisen: There was an explosion and a very peculiar engine sound, so I looked out the window. I saw the helicopter falling quickly into the sea. Then I saw a big explosion.

Pieces [of the helicopter] flew into the air, she said, adding that she saw a rotor blade detach.

The area just west of Bergen, Norways second largest city, sees frequent helicopter traffic to and from offshore oil installations.

A centre for next of kin has been established at Scandic Bergen airport hotel, with psychologists on hand to help relatives and others affected.

In August 2013, all UK Super Pumas were grounded by CHC, the company that operated them, after one of the aircraft plunged into the North Sea off Shetland, killing four people They resumed flying shortly after when they were given the all-clear by experts.

The previous year, the 225 model Super Pumas were grounded after two crashes, one off Aberdeen and another off Shetland. They had been given the go-ahead to resume flying just before the fatal crash in August.

A team from the UKs Air Accidents Investigation Branch will travel to Norway on Saturday to assist the investigation because of its experience in carrying out inquiries into several crashes involving helicopters operating to and from offshore oil and gas fields in recent years. There were five accidents involving Super Puma helicopters in the UK offshore industry, causing 20 deaths, in the four years to August 2013.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/29/helicopter-crashes-near-bergen-in-norway-turoey