North Sea ditching sparks 'copter probe

The operator of a helicopter that was safely ditched in the sea with 19 people on board is temporarily suspending flights with the model.

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The CHC-operated helicopter was carrying an oil crew from Aberdeen to a rig 86 miles north-west of Shetland when it ditched at around 3.30pm yesterday.

Three RNLI lifeboats were launched from Kirkwall in Orkney and Aith and Lerwick in Shetland to go to the aid of the 17 passengers and two crew.

When they arrived all 19 had already been taken from their life-raft by a fast rescue boat launched from the the Nord Nightingale vessel which was close to the scene, about 32 miles south-west of Shetland.

They were taken back to the tanker and flown by RAF and Bond rescue helicopters to Kirkwall in Orkney. No one was injured.

Last night passenger Michael Mashford said: "We got a call saying we were going to ditch, the pilots were absolutely amazing, they brought us down in a controlled landing.

Fellow passenger Jorn Gudbrandsgard added: "It seemed very controlled. I think we had a lot of luck."

The ditching of the EC225 Super Puma is the fourth serious helicopter incident in three years and CHC have now said flights using the EC225 model are being temporarily suspended.

Nick Mair, regional vice president of western North Sea at CHC, said: "We are delighted that our passengers and colleagues are safe and no one was injured.

"We think that the right thing to do is hold all scheduled flights using Super Puma/EC225 aircraft pending receipt of further technical information."

A team from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch is travelling to the north east of Scotland to determine the cause of the incident.

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