He was one of only two survivors of the worst North Sea helicopter disaster. This Sunday will mark 30 years since 45 men were killed on a helicopter flight returning from the Brent Delta platform to Sumburgh Airport.
Pushp Vaid spoke to Energy Voice about his memories of that day.
A pilot, who survived the Chinook helicopter crash, said he still feels guilty after 45 men perished on the offshore flight.
There were 47 people on board the flight to Sumburgh from the Brent field on November 6th, 1986.
Thirty years on from the disaster Pushp Vaid, now 75, still lives in Aberdeenshire.
Speaking to Energy Voice, he described the final moments before the helicopter descended when he heard a whining noise before “everything just disintegrated”.
The former pilot, who fought in the Indo-Pakistani war and was awarded a gallantry medal for his service, described swimming towards sunlight after the helicopter had crashed into the water off Shetland.
He said: “On the way out we had no problem and on the way back the accident happened, just two minutes before landing basically. Just before there was a whining noise in the cockpit which didn’t sound dangerous. We were not alarmed by it. It was just something we had not heard before. It was something myself and my co-pilot were discussing – what the noise was.
“It was the gearbox which was cracking up – and the noise we heard was that – and when the gearbox broke the rotor blades crashed into each other. The back rotor disappeared and parted company from the helicopter and everything just disintegrated after that.
“The accident was instantaneous when the rotors hit each other there was a huge bang and then the helicopter was flying at 100 miles an hour and then it basically, to me, it looked like it was going up but it wasn’t it was going backwards towards the sea.
“I could see the sky and I grabbed the stick which was the control for the rotor blades and I pushed it forward to bring the helicopter level but all it did was, the front rotor was still attached to the cockpit, and it flipped the cockpit over so I could see the sky and then I could see the sea and I thought the whole helicopter was going towards the sea.
“Actually it was just the cockpit going to the sea, the cabin was still behind me attached with the floor. When the cabin hit the water it took all the impact which broke off and fell into the water.
“The cockpit just kept on going down and down maybe 30, 40 feet. Then it stopped and the emergency window had fallen off at impact so the window was open so I sort of swam out. It was 11.30 daytime, brilliant sunshine and gorgeous, hardly any rain. I swam out, I could see the sunlight and there was lots of wreckage around and I found some wreckage. One of them was a bowl shape, it was probably part of the fuel tank, so I swam into it to be out of the water. But the waves came and put me into the water again. I just grabbed hold of the tank and I just stayed there.”
Father-of-two Vaid knew there was a helicopter carrying out some training that same day in the vicinity, so he knew it wouldn’t be long before he was rescued.
He said it had “never occurred” to him that passengers may not have survived and said he was “just shocked”.
Vaid added: “I was glad I was alive and just so sad others didn’t make it, I still feel guilty maybe I could have done something it was mechanical failure, there was nothing I could have done. The gearbox had broken the helicopter had broken in mid-air. I pray for the souls of the people who left.”
He went on to continue his career in the helicopter industry, returning to work with his final job transporting helicopters to Nigeria.
Watch Pushp Vaid speaking to Energy Voice from his home in Aberdeenshire, 30 years on from the disaster.