Dozens of offshore helicopters were grounded after a Super Puma plunged into the North Sea killing 13 people.
The CHC Helicopter-operated EC225 crashed on the small island of Turoey west of Bergen on the Norwegian coast.
Iain Stuart, 41, from Lauerncekirk has been named as the British victim of the crash.An Italian and 11 Norwegians were also on board the Statoil flight.
Aker Solutions confirmed four of its workers were on the helicopter and it is understood Halliburton employees were also among those killed.
The aircraft was completely destroyed when it hit rocks and exploded.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced the grounding of all 30 commercial EC 225s operating in the UK with immediate effect.
The CAA also confirmed Norwegian authorities would be leading the investigation into the crash, but said it would “offer any assistance” it could.
All Super Puma EC225s operating in the Scandinavian country have also been grounded.
The 11 passengers and two crew on board the tragic flight were returning from Statoil’s Gullfaks B field.
The helicopter had been on approach to Bergen Airport at Flesland when the accident happened.
It plunged into rocks on the rugged coastline, about 14 miles from the airport.
Flight data showed it had dropped 2,100ft in the last 10 seconds of its journey.
A spokesman for the Norwegian police in the region said the aircraft had been “totally smashed”.
Rescue teams recovered 11 bodies from the wreckage, as well as two black box flight recorders.
Production was also shut down on the Gullfaks platform to allow colleagues of those who died “time to grieve”.
In the hours after the crash, both CHC and Statoil cancelled all flights along the Norwegian continental shelf, while CHC also grounded its Super Puma fleet in the country.
CHC said it was working alongside Norwegian authorities and the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre.
And the operator confirmed it had opened a telephone hotline for the loved ones of people on board the flight.
Meanwhile, Statoil’s executive vice-president Arne Sigve Nylund said the company had been hit by a “terrible tragedy” after losing “good colleagues and friends”.
He said those killed had worked for numerous companies but had all been travelling from the platform after carrying out work for the Norwegian state-owned company.
“This is a deep tragedy, when 13 colleagues do not come home, families are affected and colleagues lose dear friends,” he added.
The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it had sent a team to the crash site and would be offering support to its Norwegian counterpart in the operation to recover the helicopter.
Keith Conradi, AAIB chief inspector, said: “We were sad to hear of the loss of a helicopter west of Bergen in Norway.
“The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has offered to assist the Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) with their investigation and is deploying a team of inspectors.”
The CAA has confirmed it will continue to liaise with helicopter operators.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragic accident in Norway.
“Following the accident the UK CAA has issued an instruction to stop any commercial passenger flights by UK operators flying the Airbus EC225LP helicopter. This mirrors action taken by the Norwegian CAA. The restriction does not apply to search and rescue flights.
“The accident involved a Norwegian helicopter and will therefore be investigated by the Norwegian authorities. We will offer any assistance that we can.
“We remain in close contact with all UK offshore helicopter operators to continue to assess the situation.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said support was being offered to the family of the Briton who died.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected. We will remain in contact with local authorities.”
Knut Neslandskyrkja, a union shop steward for Halliburton in Norway, said it was a “terribly sad day” for the company.
It is understood four workers on the flight had been employed by the firm.
Aker Solutions said the employees it had on board the helicopter worked for its maintenance, modifications and operations unit in Norway.
Chief executive, Luis Araujo, said: “This is a tragic accident and our thoughts are with the families and friends of the deceased.
“Our priority now is to take care of our employees and the families of those who have been affected.”
Eyewitness: ‘Rotor blades came rushing towards us’
Eyewitnesses described seeing “huge flames” and “black smoke” after the helicopter plunged an estimated 2,100ft in just 10 seconds.
Flight tracking information showed the aircraft dramatically losing altitude as it neared the Norwegian coast.
It had been en route from Statoil’s Gullfaks B platform when it crashed closed to Flesland Airport.
One local, John Sekkingstad, said he saw the EC225 fall “more or less straight down” into the water after its rotor loosened in the sky.
Rebecca Andersen told Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang that the helicopter’s “rotor blades came rushing toward us”.
She added: “Then we heard a violent explosion.”
Laila Vindenes lives in a cottage near the crash site.
She told Norwegian television: “We heard a helicopter make a very strange sound, until we heard a bang.”
She said she got into a boat to see if she could help in the search for survivors.
Another resident described hearing an explosion and a “very peculiar” engine sound.
They said: “I saw the helicopter falling quickly into the sea. Then I saw a big explosion.”
TV2 reporter Linda Ekeland said she saw huge flames, and then the black smoke from the crash site.
Eyewitnesses told Norwegian television they first saw the helicopter rotate in the air before there was an explosion.
Police spokesman Morten Kronen said the helicopter “has crashed, it is totally smashed”.
‘A terrible tragedy’
The vice-president of Statoil last night described the crash as a “terrible tragedy” and vowed to do all he can to support the bereaved families.
A refuge centre has been set up at a Bergen hotel to support families and loved ones of those affected the crash.
Statoil has also confirmed it has set up a hot line for anyone affected.
At a press conference, vice-president Arne Sigve Nylund said the company had been hit by a “terrible tragedy” after losing “good colleagues and friends”.
“This is a deep tragedy, when 13 colleagues do not come home, families are affected and colleagues lose dear friends,” he said.
“Today, we have been hit by a terrible tragedy, one of the most severe helicopter accidents in the history of the Norwegian oil industry. It is with great sorrow we have received the message that 13 people have been involved in this accident.
“More than anything, our thoughts are now with those who have lost their loved ones, and an entire industry extends its sympathy to them.
“We will now do everything we can to give them our support and assistance. The deceased were employed in different companies, but they were all on a mission for Statoil.”
Prime minister Erna Solberg also spoke at the press conference and said the entire country was in mourning.
She said: “This is a sad day for all who work in the oil and gas industry, but also for the entire Norwegian society.”
The crash also prompted Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja to cancel a trip to neighbouring Sweden.
The pair had been invited to attend the 70th birthday celebrations for King Carl XVI Gustaf, which take place later today.
Meanwhile, North Sea offshore industry bosses were quick to pay tribute to those who had lost their lives.
Mick Borwell, health, safety and environment policy director with Oil and Gas UK, said: “This is tragic news from Norway and our immediate thoughts go to the family, friends and colleagues of those involved in this incident.
Jake Molloy, regional organiser for RMT, added: “Our thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones in the tragedy.
“We don’t want to speculate at this stage because it will only cause more fear and anxiety to the workers in the oil and gas sector.”
And oil and gas charity, Step Change in Safety, said it would offer any support it could in the coming weeks.
A spokeswoman said: “In the last six years we have learned lessons and made some significant changes to ensure helicopter travel is safer.
“In the next few days and months the cause of the crash will become clearer and we will be on hand to offer CHC and the industry advice and guidance going forward, and ensure that any learnings are identified and applied across the sector.”
Statoil’s hotline can be reached on 800 500 20.
The helicopter: What work had been done on it?
The doomed Super Puma EC225 had its gearbox and rotor head replaced within the past four months, according to the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
It had been reported by a TV news channel that the aircraft had its maintenance servicing delayed twice.
But the NCAA insisted servicing was carried out in accordance with its standard operating procedures.
The NCAA said these parts must be considered for replacement after 2,000 hours flying time, although it was common for operators to apply for extensions to this for “operational reasons”.
NCAA senior legal adviser, Hege Aalstad, said “CHC applied for and received two 100-hour extensions to enable the gearbox to be replaced.
“The gearbox was replaced on January 17 this year within the correct timeframe. It was not overdue.”
Mr Aalstad said the aircraft’s rotor head had also been replaced, within the correct operational time frame, on March 27.
The EC225 involved in the Turoey disaster underwent a supervised service audit by the NCAA between September 15-18 last year at CHC Helicopter’s Bergen facility.
The NCAA said the audit had not revealed anything unusual or picked up any discrepancies.
The Airbus Super Puma is one of the workhorses of the North Sea offshore industry.
It can carry a maximum of 19 passengers, plus two pilots.
All CHC flights suspended
Last night, CHC confirmed it had suspended its EC225 flights.
The operator also temporarily grounded other aircrafts which were flying in the Norwegian sector as a mark of respect.
CHC has 42 EC225s operating across the world, with eight based in the UK, and 14 in Norway.
Meanwhile, Bristow Helicopters also suspended its commercial EC225 flights in accordance with both countries aviation authorities’ directives.
A spokeswoman added: “In accordance with the safety directive issued by the Norway CAA, we will continue to support lifesaving search and rescue operations on the EC225 in Norway for the time being. Bristow’s search and rescue operations in the UK are not impacted.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take appropriate action in support of regulatory compliance and safety as our highest priority.”
Bond Offshore Helicopters could not be reached for comment last night.