Investigation begins into helicopter crash

Norway’s state board that investigates accidents (Havarikommisjonen) has launched a probe into the crash Wednesday night of a helicopter that had attempted to land on a large yacht in the fjord outside Bergen. One man was seriously injured in the crash, while two others were hospitalized as well.

Emergency crews were at the scene almost immediately because a search and rescue boat was coincidentally nearby when the helicopter, reportedly inbound from Bergen’s airport at Flesland, attempted to land on the large “super-yacht” Bacarella. Instead the helicopter crashed into the water.

‘Incredible to watch’
“The rescue boat arrived right after the accident, within two to three minutes,” one of many witnesses to the crash told state broadcster NRK. “It was incredible to watch.”

It didn’t take long before all three men who were on board the helicopter were retrieved alive by well-trained volunteers on board the Norwegian search and rescue boat Bjarne Kyrkjebø, which had just finished aiding another boat in trouble. Police credited the crew with saving the lives of those on board the helicopter, two of whom including the pilot were said to be British citizens.

Police said they had no information on the nationality of the third man, all of whom were being treated at Haukeland Hospital in Bergen. Police told NRK that blood tests were taken of all three men as part of routines after an accident, but that they had no reason to believe any were under the influence of drugs of alcohol at the time of the accident.

Yacht arrived in Bergen early this month
Local newspaper Bergensavisen reported that the 190-foot-long luxury yacht Bacarella has 16 crew members, several decks and a helicopter landing pad. It was built in the US in 2009 and was reportedly sold at auction in 2014. The ship is registered in the Cayman Islands but its owners have not been revealed. The Bacarella arrived in the waters off Bergen in early May, when Bergensavisen interviewed yacht crewmember Mickey O’Connor.

He said he couldn’t say who owns the yacht, because that was “a secret.” He added, however, that “we’ve sailed the boat to Norway. The owners fly to where we take the boat and are usually on board for a few days at a time.” The Bacarella was tied up at Bergen’s Festningskaien when O’Connor spoke to Bergensavisen, but was out in the fjord Wednesday night. It was unclear whether the owners were among those on board the helicopter when it crashed.

The helicopter was reported to be a brand new Airbus AS350, registered for the first time in April. It’s known to have flown several trips tied to the Bacarella, according to NRK, also when the yacht was recently in Ibiza.

Jan Lillebøe of Norway’s search and rescue agency Hovedredningssentralen told newspaper VG that the helicopter had flown from Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands to Bergen, while Flightradar.com reported that it arrived in Bergen from Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands Wednesday night. Lillebøe said it landed at Flesland to refuel before heading out to the yacht in the Byfjord off Sandviken in Bergen. Newspaper Bergens Tidende reported that the helicopter is owned by the British company HQ Aviation.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund