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Investigators say its too early to determine cause of fatal North Sea helicopter crash

BY SELINA WILLIAMS

LONDON -- UK air crash investigators have said it is too early to identify the causes of last week' s fatal helicopter crash in the UK North Sea. The incident led to the suspension of more than half the helicopter fleet used to supply crew and equipment out to oil and gas platforms and has left oil companies scrambling to find alternative transport.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which investigates civil aircraft accidents in the UK, said teams were still searching for the voice and flight data recorder, or Black Box, of the Eurocopter Super Puma AS332 L2 that crashed Friday, killing four of the 18 people on board. Eurocopter is a unit of European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co.

"The investigation is ongoing and at this early stage it is not possible to identify the causal factors leading to the accident," the AAIB said in a statement.

Determining the causes of the accident will be instrumental in deciding whether the temporary suspension of Super Puma flights can be lifted, said the Helicopter Safety Steering Group, an influential industry safety group representing oil companies, helicopter operators, unions and aviation regulators.

The HSSG, which met for most of the day on Wednesday, will reconvene later Thursday to discuss the accident and review Saturday' s recommendation to ground Super Pumas in the UK North Sea.

BP PLC warned on Tuesday that an extended grounding of the Super Puma helicopter fleet would have a "major impact" on energy operations. Oil companies are seeking alternative types of helicopters as well as ships to transfer personnel to rigs. They are also scaling back non-essential work and extending shifts to reduce the number of transfers.

The three largest helicopter operators in the U.K. North Sea cancelled all Super Puma flights in the UK section of the North Sea voluntarily after the HSSG called for a suspension while the investigation continues. The Super Puma series of helicopters includes the following variants: AS332 L, L1, L2 and EC225.

Dow Jones Newswires

08/29/2013

 

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