Coast Guard Suspends Search for Four Missing After Offshore Helicopter Crashes in Gulf of Mexico
The Coast Guard suspended its search for four people aboard a helicopter after it crashed approximately 10 miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana, on Thursday.
The search was suspended at 6:15 p.m. after rescue crews searched approximately 180 square miles over 8 hours.
Coast Guard District Eight watchstanders received a call at approximately 8:40 a.m. from Rotorcraft Leasing Company personnel stating a company helicopter with four people aboard went down in the Gulf of Mexico while in the process of departing an oil platform.
Sector New Orleans watchstanders coordinated the launch of a Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew and a Coast Guard Station Venice 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew to assist in the search.
“It is always a difficult decision to suspend a search,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Keefe, Coast Guard Sector New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator. “Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends during this difficult time.”
The NTSB said it was investigating the crash and identified the aircraft as a Bell 407 helicopter.
Helicopter ditchings and crashes are relatively rare but not uncommon in the offshore industry, which regularly uses helicopters to transport workers to and from offshore installations.
On December 7, 2019, another Bell 407 helicopter crashed approximately 25 nautical miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana during a flight between between two oil platforms, killing the pilot and the one passenger on board. In that accident, the NTSB determined the probable cause to be the total loss of engine power due to the failure of the engine’s Nos. 3 and 4 bearings and power turbine pinion gear.
In 2013, a helicopter carrying offshore oil and gas contractors crashed off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, killing the pilot and severely injuring two others. A year earlier, another helicopter pilot was killed when his aircraft crashed approximately 35 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana.
In 2016, thirteen people were killed when a Super Puma helicopter carrying workers to a Equinor-operated platform in the Norwegian North Sea crashed near Bergen, Norway, making for one of the worst accidents in the history of the Norwegian oil industry.
The worst accident came in 2009 when a Super Puma helicopter crashed off northern Scotland while returning from a BP-operated platform in the North Sea, killing all 16 people on board.
Also in 2009, a Sikorsky helicopter crashed while en route to an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico with two pilots and seven passengers, killing all but one of the passengers. The NTSB later determined that the accident was likely caused by a bird strike. A Houston Chronicle report published following the accident revealed its as the 11th fatal accident involving offshore helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico in only five years.
by Mike Schuler
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