Eight Dead in Helicopter Crash

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) - A helicopter returning from a North
Sea oil platform went down off the northeast coast of Scotland on
Wednesday with 16 people on board, and police said at least eight
were killed.

Scotland's Grampian Police said eight bodies have been recovered
from the sea. Authorities searched for the eight remaining people
but Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland's nationalist
government, said the outlook was grim.

It looks like we might be might be facing (Britain's)
second-worst helicopter support incident in history, in terms of
the number of fatalities," he said. "Eight bodies have been
recovered and I am afraid to say the outlook for the other eight
people involved is extremely bleak."

BP said the helicopter was returning to Britain from the
company's Miller oil field.

Jake Molloy, spokesman for the oil workers union Oilc, said the
helicopter was a Bond Super Puma Flight 85 N, which had been due to
arrive at Aberdeen Heliport at 2:15 p.m. local time (1315GMT).

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said two Royal Air Force
helicopters and a Nimrod airplane went to the area, along with
ships in the vicinity.

Helicopters have been used to ferry workers to and from the oil
and gas fields off the Scottish coast since the construction of
platforms there in the 1970s.

Wednesday's crash was the second such incident in the North Sea
this year, both involving the Super Puma. In a February crash,
everyone was rescued.

In Canada, 17 people died March 12 when a Sikorsky S-92A
helicopter ditched in the Atlantic after declaring a mechanical
problem. The chopper was carrying workers to two offshore oil
platforms when it crashed.

The worst crash in the North Sea was in 1986 when 45 people died
after a Chinook crashed into the sea off the Shetland Islands north
of Scotland.

Safety was improved after the Chinook crash and all offshore
workers in the North Sea now have to complete tough training in a
crash simulator. All wear survival immersion suits and are equipped
with personal beacons and floatation devices.

The Super Puma is fitted with air bags, similar to those in
cars, that deploy on contact with the water.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his thoughts were with the
families of those involved.

"It's at times like this we remember the risks and dangers
people have to undergo working to meet our energy needs," he told
reporters.


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