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North Sea Rig Operators to Meet After Helicopter Accident

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Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Oil & Gas UK, which represents North Sea oil-and-gas operators, will meet today to discuss the implications of the temporary suspension of Super Puma helicopters following a crash in which four people died off the north Scotland coast.

The AS332L2 helicopter carrying 16 oil workers and two crew plunged into the water near the Shetland Islands on Aug. 23. Three bodies were recovered in the aftermath of the crash, while a fourth was removed from the wreckage yesterday.

The helicopter was operated by CHC Helicopter Corp. for oil company Total SA to transport workers from the Borgsten Dolphin platform. Following the crash, CHC said it had “temporarily suspended” all global operations of the aircraft until more information was available.’

“CHC will not enter into any speculation as to what caused the incident but rest assured a full investigation will be carried out in which we will co-operate fully with all the regulatory bodies and share any learnings with the industry,” the company’s Western North Sea Regional Director Mark Abbey said in an e-mailed statement.

An industry safety group yesterday recommended the temporary suspension of all Super Puma commercial passenger flights to and from offshore oil and gas installations within the U.K., excluding the use of search and rescue helicopters for emergency response.

‘Cautious Approach’

The helicopter safety steering group of Step Change in Safety, which was set up by oil and gas industry trade associations to cut U.K. offshore injuries, met yesterday to discuss the crash.

“The Super Puma series of helicopters includes the following variants; AS332 L, L1, L2 and EC225,” the HSSG said in a statement on its website. “There are significant technical differences between these variants; however, until more is understood on cause of the accident, this cautious approach is appropriate.

‘‘HSSG will closely monitor the situation and will only recommend resumption of flights by one or more of the Super Puma variants when it considers that sufficient factual information is available to support the decision.’’

The Super Puma is made by the Eurocopter unit of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co.

‘‘We all at Eurocopter are deeply saddened by this accident,’’ the company’s Chief executive Office Guillaume Faury told the BBC. ‘‘This is a tragedy for all of us. We express our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives. Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the workforce in the North Sea.’’

Scotland’s police force named the crash victims as Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.

To contact the reporter on this story: Neil Callanan in London at ncallanan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Blackman at ablackman@bloomberg.net