Statoil chopper crashes off Norway coast, at least 11 of 13 on board dead
“We have received many, many reports of a helicopter crash just west of Turoy near Bergen. Many people have reported that they heard an explosion and saw smoke. We can confirm that a helicopter has crashed and that there are people in the sea,” police told the Verdens Gang newspaper.
Norwegian police have told the broadcaster NTB that there were 13 people on board the helicopter when it came down. The area has frequent helicopter traffic servicing offshore oil platforms in the North Sea off the Norwegian coast.
Rescuers tried to find survivors, though a few hours after the crash, it was announced that 11 people had been killed. The other two people on the helicopter are presumed dead. It was reported that 11 Norwegians, one Briton and one Italian were amongst those on board, though the nationalities of those killed has yet to be confirmed.
“We do not know the sequence of events or what [caused] the helicopter to come down,” Bjorn Jarle, from the Rescue Coordination Center for South Norway.
Reports say there was no problem with the weather as conditions were good for flying, according to local meteorologists.
According to an official at the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the helicopter had maintenance servicing delayed twice last year.
"I can confirm that this specific helicopter had seen its maintenance delayed. It is correct that there was an application for a so-called travel-time extension," Hege Aalstad, a senior legal adviser at the CAA, told Norwegian daily VG.
"The first one was for a delay of 100 flying hours...and the other was also for 100 flying hours."
The helicopter that came down was a Eurocopter and was owned by the CHC Helicopter Group, which specializes in providing offshore transportation to the oil-and-gas industry. However, the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority mentioned that the helicopter has suffered from technical faults in the past.
"There have been challenges with this kind of helicopter model in 2012, when errors in the main gear box were identified," the authority said in a statement, according to Reuters. "That model received flying restrictions in 2012 and 2013."
Norwegian oil company Statoil has confirmed to the Aftonbladet publication that the crashed helicopter came from the Gullfaks B platform - a North Sea oil field operated by Statoil.
Ivar Moen, from the Rescue Coordination Center for South Norway, told Verdens Gang that diving equipment is being brought to help with the rescue operation.
Forferdelige meldinger om helikopterstyrten ved Sotra. Jeg holdes løpende orientert om redningsarbeidet.— Erna Solberg (@erna_solberg) April 29, 2016
“There are a lot of people who can help in the area, but the Rescue Coordination Center has requested vessels with the capacity to dive. The Norwegian Stealth Frigate, the Otto Sverdrup will help with the rescue attempts and is heading to the area,” he said.
Statoil is setting up an emergency center in Bergen, while it confirmed that 11 of those on board worked for the oil firm. The oil giant has also said that all helicopters of a similar type to the one that crashed have been temporarily taken out of service.