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Shetland helicopter crash inquiry to begin virtually next week

Shetland helicopter crash inquiry to begin virtually next week

Final technical tests are being carried out this week ahead of the first ever fatal accident inquiry in Scotland to be heard virtually.

It will detail the tragic circumstances of a helicopter crash off Shetland in 2013 in which four people were killed.

Video conferencing technology will be used during the hearing due to the Covid-19 restrictions in place at courts across Scotland.

The inquiry to establish the causes of the crash near Sumburgh was initially due to be held at Inverness Sheriff Court.

But Highlands and Islands Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle – tasked to preside over the case – decided it would be conducted virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

It is to begin next Monday and is expected to last four weeks.

Passengers Sarah Darnley, 45, of Elgin; Gary McCrossan, 59, of Inverness; Duncan Munro, 46, of Bishop Auckland; and 57-year-old George Allison, Winchester, all lost their lives in the crash.

A preliminary hearing was heard yesterday, with counsel for all parties involved indicating they are ready to proceed next week.

Crown Office advocate Martin Richardson told Sheriff Pyle that more tests are taking place this week to ensure no technical “glitches” occur.

However, families of those killed will be handed transcripts at the end of each day of evidence heard virtually in a bid to allay fears of any potential technological problems.

Mr Richardson said evidence would be led by a limited number of survivors, while a decision was still to be made on whether to call the chief pilot.

The preliminary hearing yesterday heard from counsel for families, the Civil Aviation Authority, helicopter operator CHC, and plane manufacturer AirBus, who all indicated they were ready to begin.

The victims were offshore workers travelling onboard a Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma helicopter belonging to CHC Helicopters when it crashed on approach to Sumburgh Airport on August 23, 2013.

The aircraft was flying workers off the Borgsten Dolphin oil platform.

In 2016, a report said flight instruments were “not monitored effectively” by the pilots in the moments leading up to the crash.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said a lack of monitoring meant a reduction in air speed was not noticed by the pilots.

Attempts to recover control of the aircraft were too late, they said.

The first witnesses to be called next week will be experts for the AAIB.

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