NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Minister apologises over Super Puma crash report

All 16 helicopter crash victims
Image caption All 16 men on board the Super Puma died

A UK minister has apologised for the length of time it took to publish a report into the deaths of 16 men in a helicopter crash off Peterhead.

Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said it was ''unacceptable'' that it had taken five years to publish the report into the North Sea Super Puma crash.

He said part of the delay was due to consideration of possible prosecutions.

The report, published last week, concluded that the accident might have been prevented.

It found that the operators had considered replacing part of the gearbox just a week before the crash happened in April 2009 but did not do so because of a failure of communication with the manufacturer.

Relatives of those who died have called for a criminal prosecution and a full public inquiry.

Mr Goodwill, who had been giving evidence to the Commons Transport Committee, rejected the idea of a public inquiry during later evidence to MPs.

Image caption The Bond Super Puma came down off Peterhead, killing 16 men

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) pinpointed a catastrophic failure of the gearbox in its examination of the crash.

Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle acknowledged that the exact cause of the gearbox failure which led to the crash could not be fully determined.

He concluded that on the balance of probabilities the spalling - the fracturing of metal - in the gearbox was the probable cause of the accident.

A six-week hearing into the crash was held in Aberdeen earlier this year.

It heard evidence from the helicopter operator Bond Offshore Helicopters and manufacturer Eurocopter, as well as crash investigators.

Not 'survivable'

Senior AAIB operations investigator Timothy Atkinson told the fatal accident inquiry that the gearbox failure meant there was nothing the crew could do - and the crash was "not survivable".

Eight of the victims came from the north east of Scotland, seven from the rest of the UK, and one from Latvia.

The two crew who died were Capt Paul Burnham, 31, of Methlick, Aberdeenshire, and co-pilot Richard Menzies, 24, of Droitwich Spa, who worked for Bond Offshore Helicopters.

The KCA Deutag employees killed were Brian Barkley, 30, of Aberdeen; Vernon Elrick, 41, of Aberdeen; Leslie Taylor, 41, of Kintore, Aberdeenshire; Nairn Ferrier, 40, of Dundee; Gareth Hughes, 53, of Angus; David Rae, 63, of Dumfries; Raymond Doyle, 57, of Cumbernauld; James John Edwards, 33, of Liverpool; Nolan Goble, 34, of Norwich, and Mihails Zuravskis, 39, of Latvia.

The other victims were James Costello, 24, of Aberdeen, who was contracted to Production Services Network (PSN); Alex Dallas, 62, of Aberdeen, who worked for Sparrows Offshore Services; Warren Mitchell, 38, of Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, who worked for Weatherford UK; and Stuart Wood, 27, of Aberdeen, who worked for Expro North Sea Ltd.

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