Super Puma crash probe chair sets out timetable

A diver works on the wreckage of the Super Puma L2 helicopter
A diver works on the wreckage of the Super Puma L2 helicopter

The chairwoman of a powerful Westminster committee investigating helicopter safety in the North Sea wants its inquiry to start within weeks – but believes a wider probe may also be needed.

Labour MP Louise Ellman, who is in charge of the Commons transport select committee, said the inquiry announced on Tuesday was likely to make recommendations to the UK Government to try to improve offshore safety.

However, she said it should not be considered an alternative to the full, independent public inquiry being demanded by trade unions and some north-east MPs.

The committee’s probe follows the deaths of four workers when a Super Puma crashed off Shetland last month – the fifth incident in just four years.

Speaking to the Press and Journal yesterday, Mrs Ellman said: “My attention was drawn to this by Frank Doran (Labour MP for Aberdeen North), who I know is very concerned.

“I know the accident recently with four fatalities is not the only incident there has been with these helicopters, which are so important in terms of getting people to and from work.

“The inquiry will probably be held in the autumn. We are going to talk to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch first. I think we will want to familiarise ourselves with where they are.”

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Asked if the committee was likely to make recommendations to the government, Mrs Ellman said: “I would hope so.”

However, she added: “I don’t envisage this as the major public inquiry that Frank is calling for. It will be a smaller inquiry.”

Mrs Ellman said “it may well be the case” that a full inquiry was also required, but would not be drawn on whether that could be a recommendation.

Meanwhile, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said that the Government was committed to learning lessons from the incident, after it was raised in Westminster yesterday.

“The industry has been quick to engage with all the stakeholders and, most importantly, with the workforce. The government will engage with all partners to ensure that the lessons of this tragic accident are learned properly,” he said.

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