UK Minister slammed after helicopter snub
A UK government minister has been slammed by a Scottish MP for refusing to meet widows of the Sumburgh helicopter crash.
The heavy criticism of transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin came from Aberdeen North member Frank Doran, who has insisted relatives of those who died in the 2013 disaster deserved answers.
Offshore workers Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland’ Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin’ Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness’ and George Allison, 57, from Winchester, all died when the Super Puma L2 plunged from the sky at Garths Ness in the August crash. Miss Darnley was believed to be the first female victim of an offshore North Sea tragedy.
The CHC-operated aircraft had been travelling from the Borgsten Dolphin rig with 18 people onboard.
The crash was the fifth North Sea helicopter disaster to take place since February 2009, which between them have claimed the lives of 20 people.
In a letter to the minister Mr Doran said: “They are ordinary people who went about their business, but who lost a loved one in appalling circumstances.
“Their lives have been destroyed and they want answers because they know of the record of the helicopter industry in the North Sea. They don’t want to see other families in the situation they are now.
“The families and survivors of the numerous helicopter disasters in the offshore oil and gas industry are entitled to answers, and I think it is the responsibility of the secretary of state to be part of that process.
“At the end of the day you will make the decision, either to continue on your present path or to look again at the issues which they will raise.
“But at the least, I think it is your responsibility to do the courtesy of hearing what those people most affected by the failures have to say.”
In a response the Department for Transport pointed out recommendations from the Civil Aviation Authority aimed at improving offshore safety.
The department stated: “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of those involved in this tragic incident. The transport secretary has received Frank Doran’s letter and will reply.
“The Civil Aviation Authority has made a number of recommendations which the department believes will lead to improvements in the safety of offshore helicopter operations. It is important the necessary actions are taken to rebuild oil and gas workers’ confidence in offshore helicopter transportation in the wake of this tragedy.”
The 2013 tragedy sparked a dramatic loss in confidence in offshore helicopter safety, with survivors left suffering from symptoms of depression and anxiety.
An investigation was launched by the UK parliament’s influential Transport Select Committee, which took the unusual step of travelling to Aberdeen to gather information.
In October the UK government ruled out holding a full public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety.
It rejected claims made by unions that commercial pressure in the offshore sector was having a detrimental impact on safety.
At that time isles MP Alistair Carmichael said evidence that might be gleaned from a full public investigation could just as easily come from a fatal accident inquiry.
A bulletin issued by the Air Accident Investigation Branch said last year that pilot error may have been a factor in the crash.