Super Puma fatal accident inquiry begins

A fatal accident inquiry started this week into a Super Puma helicopter crash in 2009, in which 14 oil workers and two crew members died.

The inquiry heard on Monday that a fault in the main gearbox was detected on March 23, 2009, eight days before the crash. There was an initial view it should be replaced. It was not, and an investigation found it was the reason for the crash.

Vernon Elrick (41), whose family stay in Stonehaven, was among those killed on April 1, 2009, when the helicopter crashed on its way back to Aberdeen from a North Sea oil platform.

Transport and offshore union RMT this week issued a renewed call for a full public inquiry into helicopter safety.

General Secretary Bob Crow said: “While the fatal accident investigation has a role to play, it cannot enforce justice or hold anyone to account and is no alternative to the full public inquiry into helicopter safety that RMT has been calling for with the support of the TUC.

‘‘RMT does, however, hope that the FAI can answer some of the many questions that the relatives, friends and work colleagues of those who lost their lives have been asking.

“The FAI process has been proven to be far too slow and, since the 2009 disaster that is under investigation today, there have been three further incidents, one of them fatal, and the families and colleagues of all those whose lives have been impacted by the helicopter safety issue have waited far too long for justice. Unfortunately, the FAI cannot deliver that justice and once again we call on the First Minister, Alex Salmond, to throw his weight behind the RMT campaign for a full public inquiry into the whole subject of helicopter safety and the broader issue of working conditions in the offshore industry.’’

The inquiry, in Aberdeen Town House, may last six weeks.