Offshore twin-engined helicopter suffered sudden loss of control before crashing into sea, killing occupants

Although investigators are determined to recover the wreckage of the Eurocopter AS365N Dauphin (G-BLVN) that crashed into the North Morecambe gas field sector of the Irish Sea on 27 December, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch had been unable to locate it by late last week because of continuing bad weather, so the CHC Scotia-operated helicopter's flight data and cockpit voice recorders had still not been recovered.

The depth of the water in the area is 30-40m (100-130ft), which salvage experts say does not present a problem, but there is a risk that the longer the wreckage remains on the sandy sea-bed, the more difficult it may be to find if currents cover it with sand.

When it crashed, the helicopter was on the third leg of a routine journey that took it first from Blackpool on the English north-west coast to the main central gas platform in Morecambe Bay. Then the Dauphin departed for a platform in the Millom West gas field, from which it took off again with two pilots and five rig workers heading for a platform in the North Morecambe gas field.

The accident occurred as the aircraft was approaching the rig, and employees awaiting the helicopter's arrival saw it "veer to the left" and descend rapidly toward the sea about 500m away. The coastguard reports there was no emergency call. Local time was about 18:40, and no witnesses reported seeing the helicopter's impact with the surface, but they heard it. The 20- year-old twin-engined Dauphin was equipped with flotation devices, life rafts, and all on board were wearing immersion suits and lifejackets, but there were no survivors. The local police says that post mortems of six bodies recovered show that they died due to multiple injuries.

Source: Flight International