All rescued safely after helicopter ditches in North Sea

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The first passengers rescued from a helicopter that ditched in the North Sea yesterday reached hospital within a couple of hours.

Altogether 14 people – 12 passengers and two crew – were on board the aircraft when it came down 25 miles (40km) off the coast of Aberdeen shortly after midday.

The EC225 helicopter, operated by Bond Offshore, had been on its way from Aberdeen to the offshore Maersk Resilient rig and the Ensco 102 rig.

Rig operator Conoco Phillips said the passengers were contractors on their way to support the drilling rigs.

Two of those on board worked for Halliburton and the others were from Ensco, Brundt and Stag, said the firm.

Neither contractor could be contacted immediately yesterday for comment.

A Bond spokesman said: “A low pressure oil warning light came on and the helicopter made a controlled descent and landed in the North Sea. It didn’t crash.”

The alarm was raised and a major rescue launched.

Everyone on board was recovered from the sea and put in life rafts. They were then flown back to Aberdeen for medical checks, although no-one was thought hurt.

The Coastguard said three search and rescue helicopters, including one from the Coastguard and one from the RAF, went to the scene, along with two lifeboats.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said it was a “very concerning” time for the friends and family of the people on board the helicopter.

He added: “Incidents such as these remain very rare but do serve as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by those offshore workers who are required to use helicopters on a regular basis.

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, praised the helicopter’s pilots, saying it “looks like a terrific piece of airmanship from very skilled pilots”.

RMT union general secretary Bob Crow said the incident “shines the spotlight yet again on the issue of safety in our offshore industry”.

Within hours, the AAIB (Air Accidents Investigation Branch) had started a formal probe into the cause.