Super Puma victims are remembered

Families reflect on the loss of loved ones in the Super Puma tragedy              Picture: Michal Wachucik/Newsline
Families reflect on the loss of loved ones in the Super Puma tragedy Picture: Michal Wachucik/Newsline
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THE families of 16 men killed in the 2009 Super Puma disaster gathered at a memorial service yesterday marking the fifth anniversary of their deaths.

There were tears as each relative, including children, placed the hurricane lamps down in the middle of the room to represent each of the lives lost.

Rev Gordon said he was aware of the pain and hurt that had been caused by the recent fatal accident inquiry held into the men’s deaths.

He said: “I know many of you felt that you had gone backwards emotionally, and so I hope that what we do today helps to re-establish some sort of equilibrium in your life.

“Today is a time to pause and simply remember. Today, five years on, we gather to remember as family, friends and colleagues.”

Relatives of the Super Puma victims have been battling for answers to find out why their loved ones died in the disaster since 2009.

Many families sat through the recent five week long inquiry and learned what had happened with the Bond-operated aircraft in the lead up to the tragedy.

The helicopter’s flight safety monitoring system flagged up potentially serious problems on two occasions a few days before it crashed.

It detected particles on a gearbox part, but a communication error between the aircraft manufacturer and the maintenance team resulted in the wrong gearbox part being checked.

The ASS32-L2 plunged into the sky when the gearbox failed due to a metal fracture. Particles could have fallen off the metal part before it completely cracked mid flight.

The sheriff presiding over the inquiry ruled that the tragedy might have been prevented.

Yesterday Rev Gordon said some of the families had felt that the deaths of their loved ones had seemed to be of little consequence during the inquiry.

Many families were not satisfied with the findings and are calling for prosecutions.

But the minister urged the Super Puma victims’ family and friends to choose their direction carefully at the service yesterday.

He said: “In the last 25 years as my time as a chaplain, I have seen some left with an overwhelming desire and drive to take things further in the courts.

“But on the other hand, I have also seen others who couldn’t face prolonging any legal process, they couldn’t face keeping their tragedy as a live event under any circumstances.

“And I cannot and would never suggest what you should do.

“The one thing I can say with some certainty is that if you choose the wrong path for you, you won’t find peace.”

Rev Gordon said some families could find a sense of purpose by pursuing their drive for justice, but others might find an acceptance and remember happier times instead if they went down a different path.

He added: “If it’s emotionally the wrong thing for you to do to pursue justice, you may well end up eaten up by bitterness, anger won’t be far from the surface and it will destroy other relationships.

“On the other hand, if it is right for you to pursue, and you don’t, you could find yourself eaten up by guilt which is just as corrosive as anger.

“Get the decision right, and things can be different.”

Relatives and friends laid down flowers at the Flight 85N Memorial in Johnston Gardens following the service.

The two Super Puma 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.