Offshore Community Mourns Victims of Helicopter Crash in Norway

Rescuers work at the site where a helicopter has crashed, west of the Norwegian city of Bergen April 29, 2016. NTB Scanpix/Vidar Ruud/via REUTERS
Rescuers work at the site where a helicopter has crashed, west of the Norwegian city of Bergen April 29, 2016. NTB Scanpix/Vidar Ruud/via REUTERS

Norwegian oil company Statoil and the greater offshore community are mourning the loss of 13 people who died in Friday’s helicopter crash in Norway. 

All 13 people aboard, including 11 passengers and 2 aircrew, were killed when the Super Puma helicopter crashed just offshore of Turøy, Norway, to the west of Bergen. The CHC helicopter was en route from the Statoil-operated Gullfaks B platform to Bergen when the crash occurred at about noon Friday. 

Statoil has identified 13 victims as employees of Halliburton, Aker Solutions, Schlumberger, Welltec, Karsten Moholt and one employee from Statoil. The two pilots are employed by CHC.

The accident is one of the worst accidents in the history of the Norwegian oil industry, and the worst offshore helicopter accident since 2009 when a Super Puma crashed off northern Scotland while returning from a BP platform in the North Sea. All 16 people on board were killed.

On Saturday, Statoil’s President and CEO, Eldar Sætre, and executive vice presidents Margareth Øvrum and Arne Sigve Nylund met with the families of the victims at a ‘next of kin’ center set up in Bergen. Norway’s Crown Prince, the Crown Princess and Prime Minister Erna Solberg were also there to offer their condolences.

“Today, Statoil is a company in mourning. Yesterday, we were hit by one of the most severe accidents in the history of the Norwegian oil industry. Many families have been hit, and we have lost good colleagues and friends,” says Eldar Sætre.

“Today, we are one family. We will stand together as one united industry, and do everything in our power to take care of the affected families,” Sætre added. “Finding an answer to why the helicopter crashed is very important, both to the next of kin and to all who have the Norwegian continental shelf as their work place. The safety of everyone working for Statoil is the most important thing for us”.

The Accident Investigation Board in Norway will investigate the accident. The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch is sending a small team to assist the Norwegian AIBN in their investigation. Statoil will also contribute to the official investigation and launch its own investigation.

The type of helicopter involved was an Airbus EC 225, a long-range passenger transport helicopter designed by Eurocopter and popular in the global oil and gas industry. Both the UK and Norway have suspended all public transport and commercial flights for all EC 225 helicopters. Some unverified reports have even said all Super Puma’s have been grounded worldwide. 

“We are greatly saddened by this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the families, loved ones and colleagues of those on board,” said Karl Fessenden, President and Chief Executive Officer of CHC Helicopter. “We have mobilized our response team and our experts are working closely with Norwegian authorities, Airbus Helicopters and Statoil. Safety remains of paramount importance to all of us at CHC.”

Mick Borwell, Health, Safety and Environment Policy Director with Oil & Gas UK, said: “This is tragic news from Norway and our immediate thoughts go to the family, friends and colleagues of those involved in this incident.”

“Oil & Gas UK will work closely with helicopter operators, the Civil Aviation Authority and industry to fully understand the circumstances of this tragedy. We will be following developments closely but in the meantime speculation on the cause must be avoided,” Borwell added. “We will work with the helicopter operators to develop effective support to the workforce and offshore operations during this period of investigation.”

“This is a tragic accident and our thoughts are with the families and friends of the deceased,” said Luis Araujo, chief executive officer of Aker Solutions. “Our priority now is to take care of our employees and the families of those who have been affected.” The company said its employees on board worked for Aker Solutions’ maintenance, modifications and operations unit in Norway.

Danish well solutions Welltech confirmed that it had a Bergen-based employee on board the helicopter when it crashed. “Our thoughts go to the employee’s family and colleagues,” the company said in a statement Saturday. “We express our sincerest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives in in this tragic accident.”

The accident is the latest involving transport helicopters operating in the offshore energy industry. In 2013, four people were killed when a Super Puma helicopter crashed in north Scotland. 12 people survived that accident. More recently, six people were killed in August 2015 when a oil and gas transport helicopter owned by Bristow Helicopters crashed off Nigeria. ‘

“Our thoughts also go out to all of you who work on the Norwegian continental shelf,” commented Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg in a statement. “We share with you the loss of your friends and colleagues.”

“Almost all of us know someone who works in the North Sea. It has been a long time since we have experienced such a serious accident. “This is a heavy day. But it is heaviest for those who have lost loved ones,” Prime Minister Solberg added.