Super Puma crash: Survivor tells of escape

Thoughts of family inspired Martin Tosh to survive. Picture: NewslineThoughts of family inspired Martin Tosh to survive. Picture: Newsline
Thoughts of family inspired Martin Tosh to survive. Picture: Newsline
A SURVIVOR of the Shetland helicopter disaster has spoken of how an image of his family, flashing through his mind, motivated him to escape the doomed Super Puma.

Martin Tosh, 34, of Kintore, in Aberdeenshire, was on board the L2 aircraft when it plummeted into the North Sea, two miles off the coast of Shetland on 23 August.

The offshore worker admitted when the helicopter filled with water in just ten seconds, he feared he was going to die.

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However, the thought of his two children – Elisha, seven, and Alix, three – and wife, Gillian, gave him the energy to haul himself free of the aircraft.

He said: “I was on my last breath and there was a flash of my family coming through to me. That got me out of the helicopter. They came floating before my eyes. I could see them.”

The fateful trip to Sumburgh airport from the Total-operated Borgsten Dolphin platform came at the end of Mr Tosh’s second voyage offshore.

Recalling the final moments that the helicopter was airborne, he said: “There was just a total loss of power and we ditched into the sea. It banked to the left and was in the sea.

“In less than ten seconds the helicopter was full of water. I was one of the last survivors out. I was petrified.

“We didn’t have time to put a mayday call out. It happened very quickly. There were no warnings at all.

“When it hit the water, I think it must have gone over straight-away. I was in the helicopter for about a minute underwater.

“When I got out, it was upside down. All the flotation bags were out in the helicopter.”
Mr Tosh wanted to thank the emergency services for their bravery in the rescue. He said: “When you see it on the TV, you don’t realise how much of a dangerous job they’ve got.

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“And us survivors would like to say a special thank-you to all involved in the incident who rescued us. They were so professional – and so calm as well.”

Fifteen people survived the disaster, the fifth involving Super Pumas since 2009, but four lost their lives.

Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness; Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin; Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland; and George Allison, 57, from Winchester, were killed in the incident.

Mr Tosh was speaking as it emerged that the model of Super Puma, which crashed into the North Sea last week, is set to be cleared to fly again.

The fleet of AS332L2s – or L2s as they are known – are banned from crew-change flights following Sumburgh Head.

However, Captain Mike Buckley, the helicopter spokesman for the British Airline Pilots’ Association, said he expects the restriction to be lifted within days.

“I believe that, as soon as the interim [safety] report is issued, the L2s will fly again – and that could be as early as Monday.”