Three people were confirmed dead after a helicopter transporting employees between oil rigs in the North Sea ditched, Scottish police said Saturday, while a fourth is still missing.
“Following the incident off the coast of Shetland during Friday 23 August, Police Scotland can confirm that the bodies of three people have now been recovered and a fourth person remains unaccounted for,” said a statement.
Scottish coastguard had previously reported that three of the 18 people on board—
including two crew and 16 passengers—were missing.
Fourteen other people were rescued.
The Super Puma helicopter was traveling from the Borgsten Dolphin platform to Sumburgh airport on Shetland when it came down three kilometers west of its destination at approximately 6:20 pm (1720 GMT).
Jim Nicholson, rescue coordinator with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), said there appeared “to have been a catastrophic loss of power which meant the helicopter suddenly dropped into the sea without any opportunity to make a controlled landing”.
“It’s fortunate there were not more casualties in a helicopter crash of this kind,” he said.
No one had yet been able to search the helicopter itself, Nicholson said, adding that it was possible that a body could be recovered inside. Once the helicopter was recovered, it could be searched, he added.
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, said: “It is still too early to know what caused this terrible tragedy, but a full investigation by the relevant authorities is already under way.”
Amanda Smith, the mother of one of the rescued people, Sam Smith, told Britain’s Sky News that her son described how the helicopter “seemed to lose power and there was no time to brace—they just dropped into the sea”.
“He was by the window so he was able to escape that way as it rolled over,” she said.
“He said he had come off better than a lot of people, were his words. It doesn’t seem real.”
Nine of the rescued passengers were helicoptered to Shetland’s main town of Lerwick with one taken off the aircraft on a stretcher, the BBC reported.
The search and rescue operation involving RNLI, the army, police and coastguards then continued through the night to try to find the missing.
CHC, the aircraft’s operator, said it was flying for oil company Total.
It is the latest in a series of incidents involving helicopters in the North Sea.
In May, all 14 people on board a Super Puma helicopter were rescued after it ditched off the coast of Aberdeen.
Another helicopter ditched in the North Sea last October, but all 19 people on board survived.
Sixteen men died when a Super Puma helicopter plunged into the sea after its gearbox failed as it was flying from BP’s Miller platform to Aberdeen in April 2009. AFP