25th May 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

‘I was on my last breaths when a flash of my family got me through’, says survivor

An offshore worker has described the moment he survived the sudden helicopter crash near Sumburgh which killed four people on their way back from a North Sea installation.

Helicopter survivor Martin Tosh.

Helicopter survivor Martin Tosh.

Martin Tosh, from Aberdeen, was one of the last survivors to be taken from the Super Puma L2 aircraft after it plunged from the sky at Garths Ness on Friday.

He described how the aircraft filled with water within 10 seconds, and said he believed he was going to die. He said he had been “petrified” by the whole dramatic incident.

It was only the thought of his family – his two children Elisha, seven, and Alix, three, and his wife Gillian – which willed him to survive.

The 34-year-old was flying with his colleagues from the Borgsten Dolphin platform east of the isles when the accident occurred at about 6.20pm. He had been returning from what was only his second trip offshore.

“There was just a total loss of power and we ditched into the sea. It [the helicopter] banked to the left and was in the sea. The helicopter filled up extremely quickly. In less than 10 seconds the helicopter was full of water.

“I was one of the last survivors out of the helicopter. I was petrified. We didn’t get any ‘brace, brace, brace’. We didn’t have time to put a mayday call out. It happened very quickly. There were no warnings at all.

“It just happened instantly. One minute you were in the sky and the next there’s water. Fighting for our lives to get out of the helicopter. Obviously it’s upside down.

“When it hit the water I think it must have gone over straight away. I was in the helicopter for about a minute under water. When I got out it was upside down. All the flotation bags were out in the helicopter.”

Asked if he thought he was going to die, he said: “I did. I was on my last breaths 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.”

Mr Tosh said he had nothing but praise for all of those who were involved in the rescue exercise. Being rescued was “the best feeling I’ve had in my whole life.

“To see someone coming to get us – how professional they were. When you see it on the TV you don’t realise how much of a dangerous job they’ve got. 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.”

Mr Tosh described suffering from “a sore shoulder” and “a sore back” following the crash. “I was rested in the helicopter and taken to hospital. The Red Cross was there. They were professional as well. The hospital staff – you couldn’t fault them in any way.”

Those who did not survive the disaster were named on Sunday as: Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland; Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin; Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness; and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.

Two people remained in hospital yesterday. One of the casualties is reported to have suffered a broken back. NHS Shetland said there was “no change” in their conditions.

Mr Tosh paid tribute to those who had died. “I worked with Gary [McCros­san], who was from Inverness,” he said. “He always had a story. This was my second trip offshore. It’s 21 days at a time. You kind of bond with who you’re working with.”

His comments came as the Air Acci­dent Investigation Branch (AAIB) said currently-available evid­ence indicated the helicopter was intact and upright as it hit the water.

It then rapidly inverted and drifted northwards towards Garths Ness, before being largely broken up by repeatedly smashing into the rocky shoreline.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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3 comments

  1. THANK GOD THIS YOUNG MAN SURVIVED TO SPEND TIME WITH HIS YOUNG WIFE & FAMILY. IM SURE HE WILL MISS THE PEOPLE WHO DIED THAT DAY HOPEFULLY THEY WILL TIGHTEN UP HEALTH &SAFETY NOW.I AM MUM OF RIG WORKER HE HAS A WIFE AND 2 GIRLS.

    Reply
  2. christine grooby

    Dear Martin
    We here in California think of you and your fellow survivors of this terrible helicopter ditch. While I do not see others commenting so much here, please know that we are so glad you are doing well and someone above there was looking out for you and the 13 others. Our sadness falls to Duncan, Sarah, George, and Gary and hope their families are comforted by their memories.
    Best wishes to you all now for your next endeavors.

    Reply
  3. Jim D Smith

    This story was sent to me by my younger brother, Bernie Smith, who is an off-shore worked of many years experience.

    An incident like this and this man’s personal story brings into perspective the challenges that are faced daily by these workers. The fact that a woman was amongst those who lost their life adds a dimension not always known in modern off-shore work.

    Our thoughts are with all workers facing this situation. RIP

    Reply

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