Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 12:08 UK

Task group to assess helicopters

Super Puma wreck arrives in Aberdeen
The Super Puma wreckage was returned to shore after the accident

A task group to tackle issues in the wake of the Super Puma disaster which killed 16 people in the North Sea has been formed.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK said it was establishing the Helicopter Accident Issues Task Group to address "cross-industry issues".

The two crew and 14 passengers died when the Bond Super Puma crashed off the Aberdeenshire coast last week.

All the bodies were recovered and the helicopter wreckage is being examined.

We feel a need to come together as an industry in the aftermath of last week's appalling loss of life to review, discuss and, if necessary, take action
Bob Keiller

A team of Grampian Police officers has flown to Norway to interview the crew of a standby vessel who raised the alarm when the Super Puma crashed.

BP has agreed with helicopter operator Bond to conduct a review of all joint operations over the next few weeks. The oil company suspended its use of Bond Super Pumas following the crash. That will continue during the review.

The new task group is formed of senior industry managers, mainly representatives of the companies directly involved in the disaster, as well as some members of Oil and Gas UK.

The aim is to act on behalf of the industry to share information and advice about helicopter accidents. The group will also define possible policies and practices.

The group will be chaired by Bob Keiller, chief executive officer of PSN - which lost worker James Costello in the tragedy - and co-chairman of Oil and Gas UK. It will meet at least once a month.

Upturned helicopter in sea
All 18 people survived another North Sea helicopter incident in February

Mr Keiller said: "We feel a need to come together as an industry in the aftermath of last week's appalling loss of life to review, discuss and, if necessary, take action.

"Even though we may not always have early answers to every question, we are determined to ensure that any lessons are shared across the industry as quickly as possible."

Jake Molloy, from the offshore arm of the RMT union, told BBC Scotland: "We need to be seen to be doing something."

Mr Molloy said some workers were quitting the industry, explaining: "The risk is just too great for them as individuals and they are not going back."

Aberdeen North MSP Brian Adam also welcomed the news.

He said: "I am delighted that the industry has acted so quickly to set up this task force after last week's tragic accident. It will reassure offshore workers that the industry does have safety as its number one priority.

"Importantly this approach will allow any new policy or recommendations to be disseminated quickly right across the industry.

"It will help rebuild confidence in North Sea transport which is important not just for those working on the rigs, but also for the families and friends of those who work offshore."

Memorial service

All the wreckage from the Super Puma helicopter crash has been moved to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) headquarters.

The AAIB said it will be examined in Farnborough by experts to try to establish the cause of the crash.

Half of those killed came from the north east of Scotland, the others from across the UK, and one from Latvia.

The Bond Super Puma had been returning from BP's Miller oil platform when it crashed last Wednesday.

The UK Oil and Gas Chaplaincy will conduct a memorial service on Wednesday 15 April in the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen at 1400 BST.

Meanwhile, about 3,000 people have joined a special tribute group on the Bebo social networking site to the victims of the crash.

The Bond Helicopter Tragedy pages contain messages from friends, colleagues and family of some of the men who died.

The crash came less than two months after a Super Puma helicopter with 18 people on board ditched in the Etap field 125 miles east of Aberdeen. All survived the 18 February incident.

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