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18 rescued after helicopter drops into North Sea

world Updated: Feb 19, 2009 08:34 IST

AFP
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A helicopter carrying 18 people to an oil rig crashed into the North Sea on Wednesday but British coastguards rescued everyone involved from the rough seas.

The Super Puma helicopter carrying 16 passengers and two crew went down just before it reached the platform about 125 miles (200 kilometres) east of Aberdeen, sparking a major rescue operation.

"All 18 people who were travelling on board a Super Puma Bond helicopter on a routine crew change trip have been recovered ... (they) are safe and undergoing medical checks," said a spokesman for Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The alarm was raised by people on the oil platform who saw the helicopter go down. The coastguard immediately sent out two helicopters, and two Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft were also deployed.

A number of vessels joined the search, and they were guided to the helicopter in the darkness by flares and lifejacket lights, where they found all 18 survivors huddled in two liferafts.

Three people were winched up by a helicopter but this had to be stopped because of worsening weather, so the remaining 15 were taken by sea to the oil rig, where all 18 underwent medical checks. No serious injuries were reported.

Police said a helicopter carrying three people "who are described as walking wounded" landed in Aberdeen late Wednesday.

"The remaining 15 are being transferred by vessel and are expected to arrive at Aberdeen Harbour around 5:00 am (0500 GMT) on Thursday," a spokesman said.

James Lyne, a spokesman for the RAF base at Kinloss on the northeastern Scottish coast, could not explain why the helicopter went down but said an investigation was underway.

He said all those on board would have been wearing immersion suits that would have protected them from the cold of the sea for some time, adding: "They all managed to get out safely. It is a very good result."