Technical error blamed for helicopter crash death that killed 13

Police and rescue workers at the scene following Friday's helicopter crash off Norway. Picture: Torstein Boe / NTB Scanpix via AP
Police and rescue workers at the scene following Friday's helicopter crash off Norway. Picture: Torstein Boe / NTB Scanpix via AP

A technical error was almost certainly behind the helicopter crash in which 13 people including a Scot died on Friday, Norway’s Accident Investigation Board has said.

The director of the board’s aviation department said: “On the basis of the facts we have, this involves a technical fault; it isn’t human error.”

Scot Iain Stuart, from Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire died when the Airbus H225 Super Puma crashed in the North Sea after picking up passengers from an oil platform.

In total 13 people died – 11 Norwegians, an Italian and Mr Stuart.

Footage of the crash showed the helicopter’s rotor detached from the body of the aircraft and spinning through the air. A warning light had come on in the cockpit of the helicopter on two occasions in the days before the crash, resulting in two components being changed.

In 2012, two EC225 Super Puma helicopters ditched into the North Sea – one off Aberdeen and another off Shetland. Both incidents were blamed on gearbox problems and all passengers and crew were rescued

In August 2013, a different model of Super Puma, the AS332 L2, crashed off Shetland, killing four people

And in April 2009, another AS332 L2 crashed off the Scottish coast; 16 men died when the main rotor separated following gearbox failure.

On Tuesday the aviation director of Norway’s Accident Investigation Board, Kaare Halvorsen said they were “as certain as they can be” that a technical problem caused the crash, rather than human error.

He also confirmed that the crew had no time to send an emergency message before the crash.

Mr Halvorsen also stressed that the investigation - in which British experts are participating - was at an early stage and no conclusions could yet be drawn.

Super Pumas remain grounded in both Norway and the UK, though their manufacturer, Airbus, said on Monday that it was no longer recommending a blanket ban on their use. It insists the fleet is safe.

Meanwhile union leaders have called for a public inquiry into the recent UK helicopter accidents.

Unite Union regional officer Tommy Campbell said: “We are calling for a full public inquiry into all helicopter fatal accidents in the UK. It is now more important than ever for such an inquiry to take place and it is important the government acts quickly to get the public inquiry set up.”