Fatal helicopter crash operator Bond should face crimi...

Fatal helicopter crash operator Bond should face criminal charges for safety failures

13 March 2014

Unite believes the Lord Advocate should revisit evidence and bring forward a criminal prosecution of offshore helicopter firm Bond after this morning’s Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the April 2009 Super Puma helicopter tragedy established the operator’s negligence over a number of maintenance and inspection failures.

Unite is also reiterating its calls to fast-track FAI reforms and to convene a full public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety after Sheriff Derek Pyle highlighted Bond’s failure to properly maintain the Super Puma AS332 - L2 type in the days before fourteen offshore workers and two pilots perished 13 miles off the Aberdeenshire coast.

The FAI determinations will provide little solace for the families of the victims still grieving the deaths of their loved ones after five gruelling years of delay and wait caused by an unacceptably opaque legal process and Unite remains highly critical of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) decision not to prosecute Bond before the FAI was launched and before hearing crucial testimony into the April 2009 fatalities.

Against the backdrop of five helicopter crashes and a total of twenty fatalities on transfers to and from installations in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) since 2009, Unite is in no doubt that robust legal and political interventions are now urgently required to address a growing safety crisis.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Our thought’s today, first and foremost, are firmly with the deceased and their loved ones who have shown great courage and dignity throughout an unacceptably protracted legal process, yet seem no further forward in their pursuit of justice.

“Today’s determination merely reinforces our view that the FAI legislation needs urgent reform to tackle: 

  • The unacceptable delays families of victims face in their pursuit of fact and justice surrounding their loved one’s death; 
  • The lack of transparency and engagement with the victims’ families in the process leading to the convention of the FAI; and 
  • The toothless nature of the Judge’s determinations which cannot be legally enforced on a negligent employer. 
“The Scottish Parliament has the power via the Inquiries into Deaths (Scotland) bill to make the changes our FAI system so obviously requires. Unite therefore has no doubt that the Secretary for Justice should fast-track Patricia Ferguson’s proposed reforms to advance the interests of the Scottish public and the workplace health and safety agenda.

“Unite is also bitterly disappointed the FAI findings highlight a number of maintenance and safety inspection failures on the part of Bond, failures which remain a possibility for cause of this fatal crash, yet the operator can escape any form of punishment from industry regulators or prosecution from the COPFS. This is unacceptable and should prompt a re-evaluation of the evidence by the Lord Advocate to consider prosecuting Bond and also more than justifies the growing calls for a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety which the trade unions have been campaigning for.

“Through our Back Home Safe campaign Unite has amplified the voice of over 3,500 offshore workers who have expressed their concerns with offshore helicopter transfers to and from installations in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). This evidence has been delivered to the UK Transport Committee and also been debated in the Scottish Parliament with the clear message: there is a crisis in confidence among offshore workers concerning the safety of these helicopters.

“If our politicians and the UK Oil & Gas industry are serious about improving access to justice, workplace health and safety and restoring a shattered confidence in our offshore helicopter fleet, then they will back these measures.

“It’s far too late for the victims of the April 2009 Super Puma crash but we must do everything we can to learn from this tragedy and limit the possibility of more fatalities happening in the future.”


For further information please contact Unite regional industrial officer Tommy Campbell in Aberdeen on 07810 157920 or Peter Welsh on 07810 157931.

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