Norwegian oil company Statoil reported Friday evening that all 13 people on board a helicopter returning from work on Statoil’s Gulfaks B oil field were killed, after the helicopter crashed at Turøy outside Bergen. The cause of the crash has not been determined.
“We’ve been hit by a terrible tragedy today,” Arne Sigve Nylund, head of operations for Statoil’s Norwegian oil fields, said at a press conference Friday night. He called the helicopter crash “one of the biggest helicopter accidents in the history of the Norwegian oil industry.”
The helicopter was heading in for landing at Bergen’s main airport at Flesland when it crashed at Turøy around midday Friday. “Unfortunately it looks like everyone was killed,” Nylund said. “We have lost good colleagues and friends.”
The Airbus EC 255 helicopter had a crew of two and 11 passengers on board. Nylund said that the passengers were employed by various oil and offshore companies, but that “all of them were on the job for Statoil.” He added that “the entire industry was standing together in sorrow with those who have lost their loved ones.”
Eleven bodies had been recovered as of Friday night while search and rescue crews continued looking for the remaining two.
Production at Statoil’s Gullfaks B field was halted after the accident. “We did that because it’s important that those who are out there (on the platform) can have time to deal with their grief,” Nylund said.
Rescue efforts at the scene were halted Friday evening, according to the main search and rescue operations central for southern Norway. Divers and search crews continued to search, however for the remaining two victims. Parts of the helicopter’s hull were found at a depth of around seven meters, and efforts were underway to retrieve them.
The crash was so severe that the helicopter’s hull and its rotary blades were found around 250 meters from one another. One witness claimed to have seen the blades fall off the helicopter, leaving its hull to plunge into the sea.
Norwegian aviation officials grounded all helicopters of the same make until the cause of the crash could be determined.