Crew return from ditched helicopter
All 19 people on board a helicopter that ditched in the North Sea are safe and well and have returned to land, the coastguard has said.
The CHC helicopter was carrying an oil crew from Aberdeen to a rig 86 miles north-west of Shetland when it ditched at around 3.30pm on Monday.
Three RNLI lifeboats were launched from Kirkwall in Orkney and Aith and Lerwick in Shetland to go to the aid of the 17 passengers and two crew.
When they arrived all 19 had already been taken from their liferaft by a fast rescue craft launched from the the Nord Nightingale vessel which was close to the scene, about 32 miles south-west of Shetland. They were taken back to the tanker and flown by RAF and Bond rescue helicopters to Kirkwall in Orkney. No one was injured in the incident.
First Minister Alex Salmond said he hopes an investigation into the cause will get to the facts quickly so other such incident can be avoided. He said: "Once again, the response to this incident by our emergency services was fantastic and their continued bravery and expertise will bring great reassurance to every offshore worker who is required to use helicopters in challenging conditions regularly throughout their working lives."
A spokesman for the coastguard said the weather in the area had been good. The EC225 Super Puma helicopter remains in the water and Lerwick lifeboat is still at the scene.
A statement from CHC said: "CHC Helicopter can confirm that all 17 passengers and two crew have been picked up by the standby vessel Nord Nightingale following the controlled ditching of one of its EC225 Super Puma aircraft in the North Sea off Shetland this afternoon. The appropriate authorities have been informed and a full investigation will be undertaken to determine the cause of the incident."
In May all 14 passengers and crew members on a Super Puma helicopter were rescued after it ditched about 30 miles off the coast of Aberdeen. It was on a scheduled flight from Aberdeen Airport to a platform in the North Sea at the time. Earlier 16 people died when a Super Puma plunged into the sea. This happened about six weeks after another Bond Super Puma with 18 people on board ditched in the North Sea as it approached a production platform owned by BP. Everyone survived that accident.
The Helicopter Safety Steering Group set up in 2009 will hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the latest incident and a union official wants operators to provide more assurances to offshore workers that their helicopters are safe.
Some of the passengers spoke to BBC Reporting Scotland at a hotel in Lerwick, on Shetland. Passenger Michael Mashford told the news programme: "We got a call saying we were going to ditch, the pilots were absolutely amazing, they brought us down in a controlled landing using the flotation devices about half a mile from a large vessel."