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Civil Aviation Authority, BP, Eurocopter, Bond - they just wanted to bury this inquiry; COPTER CRASH FURY AT PROBE DELAYS Victims' families demand prosecution rethink.

Byline: CHARLIE GALL reporters@dailyrecord.co.uk

FURIOUS families of 16 men killed in a North Sea helicopter crash yesterday accused oil and air chiefs of trying to bury the probe.

They called on prosecutors to overturn a decision not to pursue those responsible, insisting only a Piper Alpha-style inquiry headed by a judge would improve safety.

Grieving parents spoke as a sheriff 's findings from a fatal accident inquiry into the Bond-operated Super Puma tragedy off Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, were published.

Chris Gordon, of Thompsons Solicitors representing families, said: "It's five years since the fatal accident and the inquiry has taken far too long. Many of the witnesses could quite simply not remember anything and it's an appalling state of affairs.

"If it wasn't for the representation of the families the inquiry would have been over in a week. BP, the Civil Aviation Authority, Eurocopter, Bond were not interested in fact-finding, they were interested in saying nothing and burying this.

"Family members want a public inquiry because they trust nothing else."

He added: "We call upon the Lord Advocate to do what the Crown did not do here, that is consider the evidence as a whole and revisit the question as to whether or not there should be a prosecution."

Families hoped the inquiry would tell them why Super Puma G-REDL fell into the sea as it returned from BP's Miller Field on April 1, 2009.

But Sheriff Derek Pyle's conclusions were the same as an Air Accidents Investigation Branch report that pinpointed catastrophic gearbox failure. Sheriff Pyle said the exact cause of the failure could not be fully determined.

He said an AAIB report was "overcautious" in not identifying metal fatigue in the gearbox as the probable cause.

Bond staff discovered a metallic particle in the gearbox on March 25.

But a communication error between maintenance staff and manufacturers, then Eurocopter, meant a referral to a maintenance manual was not made and it went back into service.

Sheriff Pyle said there was a responsibility on Bond to follow the manual. He said: "There can be no excuse for not doing so."

Tommy Campbell, of the Unite union, said: "The finger is now pointed at Bond. Their failures have been identified now by the sheriff in this inquiry.

"But this inquiry didn't have any teeth."

Audrey Wood, from Newmachar, Aberdeenshire, who lost son Stuart, said: "This is not something that will go away. This will go on and on for us until we get answers."

Last night, the Crown Office insisted the decision not to hold criminal proceedings was correct.

A Bond-operated Sikorsky S-92 helicopter landed safely in Aberdeen yesterday after a technical warning on an engine.

CAPTION(S):

GRIEVING Audrey Wood

James Costello

Vernon Elrick

Brian Barkley

Raymond Doyle

Warren Mitchell

Gareth Hughes

David Rae

Nairn Ferrier

Stuart Wood

Richard Menzies

James Edwards

Alex Dallas

Leslie Taylor

Nolan Goble

Paul Burnham
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 14, 2014
Words:482
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