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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 09:29 GMT
Air crash cause 'not mechanical'
The Eurocopter AS365N which crashed
The helicopter crashed 25 miles off the coast, killing seven men
No evidence of major mechanical failure has been found in connection with a helicopter crash which killed seven men, a preliminary report has revealed.

Five gas workers and two pilots died when the aircraft plunged into the Irish Sea in Morecambe Bay on 27 December.

An inquest into the death of six of the men has been adjourned.

The body of gas worker Keith Smith, 57, from Stockton-on-Tees, has not yet been found.

Pitched forward

The helicopter had been travelling from Blackpool, between gas platforms picking up workers, when it got in to difficulties on its final approach to its third stop, the North Morecambe platform.

The twin-engine aircraft was seen to pitch sharply forward and bank to the right seconds before it crashed into the icy waters, according to the report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB).

On board were co-pilot Simon Foddering, 33, from Preston, and helicopter commander Stephen Potton, 52, from Blackpool.

The other gas workers who died were Robert Warburton, 60, of Heysham, Lancashire, Leslie Ahmed, 48, from South Shields, Tyneside, John Shaw, 51, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and Alfred Neasham, 57, from County Durham.

Flight recorders show the crew had been approaching the platform but had become unhappy with the manoeuvre and aborted their attempt to land.

The AAIB report said: "A review of the recorded data to date has not indicated any problems of a technical nature and no helicopter manoeuvres have been identified which were not in response to flight control inputs.

'Dreadful event'

"A detailed investigation of the wreckage is continuing together with further analysis of the recorded data".

The flight recorder was located on 5 January and the major elements of the fuselage were recovered on 10 January.

The families of Mr Foddering and Mr Potton said they did not wish to comment on the details of the crash until the full report was released.

In a statement issued through Lancashire Police, they said: "We are aware of the interim report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch published today.

"We are grateful for this initial brief snapshot of the events, but recognise that the investigation has a long way to run before the complete picture of what happened to our loved ones is available.

"We are still struggling to come to terms with the consequences of this dreadful event, which has deeply affected us all."

Helicopter flight box recovered
17 Jan 07 |  Lancashire
Wife of offshore crash man speaks
28 Dec 06 |  Edinburgh and East

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