‘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.
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.