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George Allison named among those who died when Super Puma L2 crashes near Shetland
9:25am Saturday 24th August 2013 in News
A Hampshire man is among those to have died in a helicopter tragedy in the North Sea, it has been revealed.
Police have named George Allison among the four people to have died when a helicopter carrying 18 people ditched in the sea following an apparent ''catastrophic loss of power''.
Mr Allison is 57 and from the Winchester area.
He was a director and safety training specialist for engineering consultancy Rangefox, which he ran from his home in Francis Gardens, Abbotts Barton.
The Daily Echo approached his family earlier this morning but they were too upset and declined to comment.
Mr Allison had been working at the Offshore Dunbar Platform as a project safety supervisor for just over a year when he was killed, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He was overseeing conversion work at the platform and at a drilling support vessel, it said.
Describing himself as a ''highly qualified, experienced and competent Safety Advisor who has been working in an offshore environment globally for the past 27 years'', he said he was highly motivated, hard working and creative.
He listed his interests as swimming, fishing, art, riding his bicycle, cooking and reading.
According to an online business profile, he has also worked as a project safety supervisor for Total Oil in the North Sea since August 2012.
He had more than 25 years experience in drilling and construction as well as marine salvage and rig repairs.
Mr Allison had also previously worked in Nigeria for Noble Drilling, providing health and safety training and maintaining morale.
He went to school in Cumbria, before attending Gateshead College in 2006 and BCS College in Nottingham in 2008.
Former colleagues appreciated his talent according to comments made on his LinkedIn profile prior to his death.
Ronnie Watt, senior health & safety advisor at Total, said he would recommend Mr Allison to any company.
He said: “George is a very enthusiastic individual with good strengths in all areas. George is an excellent team members and works well under pressure.”
Mike McMahon, drilling superintendent at Talisman Sinopec Energy, added: “George worked for me on the Total operated drilling rig 'Sedco 714' for approximately four years, in the role as offshore safety advisor.
“I found George to be a true safety focused professional. He personally made the Sedco 714 a safer place to work by rigorously enforcing a 'safety culture' and a 'door is always open' attitude.”
The other three victims have been named as Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland; Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin and 59-year-old Gary McCrossan, from Inverness.
The Super Puma L2 aircraft went down at 6.20pm last night, around two miles west of Sumburgh airport on Shetland as it was returning to the island from the Borgsten Dolphin platform in the North Sea.
Fourteen of the 18 people on board the helicopter were taken to safety during the immediate rescue response.
A major search operation, involving the coastguard, police, RAF and RNLI, was extended overnight to hunt in the darkness for those who remained missing.
This morning, Police Scotland confirmed the bodies of three people have been recovered.
A fourth person remains unaccounted for, a spokeswoman added.
The families of those affected have been informed.
Jim Nicholson, RNLI rescue co-ordinator, said he understands two of the bodies were recovered in the area where the helicopter crashed.
''The bodies came to the surface close to the helicopter wreckage,'' he said.
''The helicopter was in a pretty inaccessible place but the lifeboat crew were able to get to them using an inflatable craft.
''It's fortunate there were not more casualties in a helicopter crash of this kind.
''There appears to have been a catastrophic loss of power which meant the helicopter suddenly dropped into the sea without any opportunity to make a controlled landing.''
The rescue team then spent hours securing the helicopter and moving it to a more accessible location where it is waiting to be loaded on to a vessel.
Mr Nicholson added: ''The helicopter is being held in position but no one has been able to board it yet.
''Once the helicopter has been loaded on to the vessel it can be searched.
''It may be that a body is recovered on the helicopter.''
He praised the efforts of the rescue agencies involved.
''I think it's been a very long night and I think the crew have been tremendous.''
Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, paid tribute to all those involved in the rescue effort.
He said: ''Our thoughts at this difficult time are with the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident. We also hope that those who were injured can make a full and speedy recovery.
''I would like to pay a massive tribute to all of those brave and hard-working individuals involved in the rescue effort and in treating the casualties when they were brought ashore.''
A full investigation is already taking place, he added.
He said in a statement: ''It is still too early to know what caused this terrible tragedy, but a full investigation by the relevant authorities is already under way.
''The Scottish Government is in regular contact with all the agencies who have been involved in this rescue and recovery operation through our Resilience process.''
Pat Rafferty, Scottish secretary of the Unite union, said: ''Our thoughts are with the deceased and their families. No-one should ever go to work and not come back safely to their family and friends. This is an absolute tragedy.
''This is the fifth major incident in the last four years involving Super Puma helicopters in the UK offshore industry and the second resulting in fatalities. It's unacceptable and it can't go on.
''A full investigation must now take place and the industry's helicopter operators must use every means at their disposal to demonstrate that its fleet is fit for purpose.''
An RNLI spokesman said two of the bodies were recovered by an RNLI lifeboat crew from Lerwick, Shetland.
One of their lifeboats was also involved in reclaiming wreckage from the scene.
The coastguard previously believed 15 people had been rescued in the aftermath of the incident, but that figure was revised to 14 today.
Earlier, the rescue team, involving the various agencies, managed to move the helicopter to a more accessible position where it could be searched for missing people.
The helicopter, flown by two crew members, was carrying 16 passengers from the oil rig to the island when it ditched.
One of the men rescued, Sam Smith, described how the helicopter suddenly lost power and there was ''no time to brace'', it has been reported.
His mother Amanda Smith told Sky News: ''He said (the helicopter) seemed to lose power and there was no time to brace - they just dropped into the sea.
''He was by the window so he was able to escape that way as it rolled over.
''He said he had come off better than a lot of people, were his words.
''It doesn't seem real.''
The coastguard said the helicopter's life rafts were found empty and some wreckage from the aircraft had started to wash up at the southern end of Sumburgh.
The helicopter's operator CHC, said it was flying for oil company Total and that the aircraft lost communication as it approached the airport on the southern tip of Shetland's main island.
Mark Abbey, regional director of the western North Sea for CHC Helicopter, said: ''CHC is deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic accident. Our passengers and our people are always our priority and we are concentrating our efforts on supporting all those involved and their families.
''We would like to thank and praise the emergency services and all organisations involved in the rescue and recovery operation.
''A full investigation into the cause of the incident will, of course, be carried out in conjunction with the Air Accident Investigation Branch and CHC will co-operate fully with all relevant bodies.''
Investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch have been at the scene.
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