Page last updated at 17:25 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 18:25 UK

Salmond: Crash 'massive tragedy'

First Minister Alex Salmond said the crash was an 'appalling tragedy.'

The North Sea helicopter crash is a "massive tragedy" which will be felt throughout the industry and country, Scotland's first minister has said.

Alex Salmond's comments came after a Bond Super Puma carrying 16 people came down 40 miles east of Aberdeen.

He said the crash served as a reminder of the huge cost paid in lives for extracting oil from the North Sea.

The first minister said it was too early to draw any conclusions on safety issues in the area.

Mr Salmond, who left the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for Aberdeen within hours of the crash, said it could turn out to be the second most serious helicopter incident in North Sea History, after the 1986 Chinook disaster, in which 45 men died when it crashed off the Shetlands.

Incidents of this scale, this devastating tragedy, remind us that there is a huge wealth in the North Sea, but there's a huge cost in extracting it
Alex Salmond

The Chinook had been carrying oil workers from the Brent Field.

Speaking from Holyrood, the first minister said: "We have a massive tragedy which will be felt by the oil and gas community, certainly, and people across the country.

"For the families concerned, it's an appalling tragedy and also for everybody who's worried at this moment, about whether their loved ones have been caught up in this tragedy."

Mr Salmond, who is the MSP for Gordon and the MP for Banff and Buchan - both north east Scotland constituencies - said there would now be a full investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Bureau.

He added: "Unfortunately, the North Sea is an inherently dangerous place.

"We have had an average of one fatal incident in air transport a year since oil and gas was won from the North Sea and everything possible has to be done to secure safety - that's the ultimate priority.

"Incidents of this scale, this devastating tragedy, remind us that there is a huge wealth in the North Sea, but there's a huge cost in extracting it."

The issue is expected to dominate business at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

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