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BALPA considers appealing black box decision for Sumburgh’s Super Puma crash

BALPA considers appealing black box decision for Sumburgh’s Super Puma crash
A pilots' union is considering whether to appeal a landmark legal decision to release the black box recorder from the Super Puma which crashed off Sumburgh in 2013 killing four oil industry workers. The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) is due to announce this week whether it intends to try and block the release of the recordings to prosecutors. Earlier, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland successfully argued at the Court of Session that the black box should be released to the Crown Office in order to speed the investigation into whether any criminal proceedings should be brought in connection with the crash. Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland and George Allison, 57, from Winchester died when the Super Puma crashed two miles off the coast at Sumburgh, in August 2013.

A pilots’ union is considering whether to appeal a landmark legal decision to release the black box recorder from the Super Puma which crashed off Sumburgh in 2013 killing four oil industry workers.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) is due to announce this week whether it intends to try and block the release of the recordings to prosecutors.

Earlier, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland successfully argued at the Court of Session that the black box should be released to the Crown Office in order to speed the investigation into whether any criminal proceedings should be brought in connection with the crash.

Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland and George Allison, 57, from Winchester died when the Super Puma crashed two miles off the coast at Sumburgh, in August 2013.

BALPA argued in court that releasing the black box could impact on the industry investigation into the crash and deter pilots from sharing information over incidents, for fear it could be used against them in any criminal proceedings.

A spokeswoman for BALPA confirmed that lodging an appeal was under consideration but she could not comment further on the union’s intention.

Lawyers acting for the families of those who died and those who survived the crash said the black box must be released – and that rules surrounding who gets access to the information were too strict.

Lord Jones said in his ruling last months that the data must only be made available to police and prosecutors.

Last night, Lisa Gregory, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors in Aberdeen, said the victims’ needs had to be considered.

Mrs Gregory said: “This investigation has to be focused on the victims of the crash. While it is right that the wider implications of disclosing data from the black box are considered, some of the survivors that we represent do not feel the disclosure goes far enough and may still mean their key questions are left unanswered. We are working with our clients to consider both the issues around black box data and the next stages of the investigation.”

Mrs Gregory is leading a £5m damages claim against operator CHC Helicopter, from nine of the survivors of the crash who have suffered a range of physical injuries, including a fractured spine, and emotional trauma.
CHC Helicopter has to date paid out more than £500,000 in interim insurance payments to those affected by the crash.

Initial findings by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) revealed human error may have caused the crash, as neither the pilot nor co-pilot noticed a significant drop in speed as the helicopter approached Sumburgh Airport.

A spokesman for the Crown Office would not be drawn on a potential legal challenge to the Court of Session decision, delivered by Lord Jones last month.

He added: “Following a helicopter crash off Sumburgh on 23 August 2013 in which 4 people died, Crown Office began an investigation into the cause of the deaths.

“The investigation is ongoing and the families of those who died will continue to be updated in relation to any significant developments.”

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