NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Shetland Super Puma black box decision appeal dropped by Balpa

Helicopter wreckage being salvaged Image copyright PA

An appeal against a ruling that the black box from a North Sea helicopter crash should be given to Scotland's top law officer has been dropped, the BBC Scotland news website has learned.

The cockpit voice recorder from the accident off Shetland in 2013, in which four people died, was recovered by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

A judge ruled it should be made available.

The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) has abandoned its appeal.

A Crown Office spokesman said of the appeal decision: "The families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy have been advised of this and will continue to be updated in relation to any other significant developments.

"The investigation into the circumstances of the crash that resulted in the deaths continues."

'Deeply concerned'

Balpa said in a statement: "Balpa has decided not to proceed with an appeal against a ruling to allow flight data from the tragic 2013 Sumburgh accident to be released early.

"Our concern throughout this process has been one of timing.

Image caption There is a memorial at Sumburgh Airport

"While pilots remain deeply concerned about the safety implications of this unprecedented legal intervention by the Crown in an ongoing safety investigation, Balpa understands that the investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch into the Sumburgh accident is now well advanced.

"Pilots fully understand it is difficult for the families of those affected by accidents to wait for this necessarily time consuming investigation process to conclude.

"However, it is essential the AAIB is able to complete its painstaking, difficult and vital work without distraction."

Rare move

Prosecutors have been trying to establish whether anyone could be held criminally responsible for the crash.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has the right to initial access to the cockpit voice recorder but has no discretion in handing over the material to other bodies - in this case the Crown prosecutors - unless directed by a court.

The BBC Scotland news website revealed last year that an order was being sought by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC at the Court of Session to access the data.

It was a rare legal move.

Lord Jones said he was satisfied that disclosing the data would have no adverse impact on current or future crash investigations - but that it could only be disclosed to the Crown Office and Police Scotland.

A total of 18 people were on board when the Super Puma crashed on its approach to Sumburgh.

Helicopter passengers Sarah Darnley from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, from Inverness, Duncan Munro, from Bishop Auckland, and George Allison, from Winchester, lost their lives.

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