|Super Puma Helicopter [File picture]|
In what some observers are suggesting is a freak accident and could never happen, a Super Puma helicopter, whilst ferrying passengers from a Norwegian oil platform; horrified onlookers watched the helicopter fuselage physically part, in mid air, from the forward rotor mechanism and crash in the North Sea on Friday.
The crash killed eleven people on board, two others are missing, rescue officials said. The separated rotor mechanism still in one piece, meanwhile spiralled down to earth at a much slower rate, away from the fuselage crash site..
Several witnesses told Norwegian media they saw the rotor separate from the helicopter while still in the air. Commercial operation of the Super Puma helicopter type has been suspended pending a detailed accident investigation which has already begun. The UK Air Accident Investigation Board is involved, as it has in recent years conducted several investigations involving the Super Puma helicopter type. Search & Rescue missions are excluded from the suspension, the CAA following the actions of Norwegian colleagues.
The CAA in the UK issued a Statement: "Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragic accident in Norway. Following the accident the UK CAA has issued an instruction to stop any commercial passenger flights by UK operators flying the Airbus EC225LP helicopter. This mirrors action taken by the Norwegian CAA. The restriction does not apply to search and rescue flights.
“The accident involved a Norwegian helicopter and will therefore be investigated by the Norwegian authorities. We will offer any assistance that we can.
“We remain in close contact with all UK offshore helicopter operators to continue to assess the situation.”
The Rescue Coordination Centre for Southern Norway [RCCSN]confirmed 11 passengers and two crew on the flight from the Statoil Gullfaks B oil platform, were Norwegian nationals except for a British and an Italian national.
"The helicopter is completely destroyed," reported the RCCSN. After a search for survivors lasting several hours, 11 bodies were recovered and the remaining two people were presumed dead.
Plumes of smoke could be seen in an area of sea peppered with many small islands, debris could be seen littering the rocky outcrops.
"While I looked up, the rotor loosened and disappeared towards the north," John Atle Sekkingstad told local paper Bergens Tidendes' website.
"After that, the helicopter turned north and I saw fire at the top of the helicopter, where the rotor had been attached. It caught fire before it crashed."
The main body of the aircraft was lying under water, while its rotor was found on a rocky outcrop 200-300 metres away, state broadcaster NRK said, quoting the RCCSN rescue centre.
Oil worker Chris Andersen told NRK: "I saw the rotor separate .... It was horrible. There was a huge explosion that you could physically feel. You felt the vibration."
The crash zone is just west of Bergen, Norway's second-largest city, and has frequent helicopter relays to and from offshore oil installations. Weather conditions on the day were reported as normal with good visibility.
Sources: NRK, RCCSN, REUTERS, AP, BBC, AAIB
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