I remember falling: Passenger tells inquiry of moment helicopter hit sea

An offshore worker who survived a helicopter crash in the North Sea which killed four fellow passengers told a Fatal Accident Inquiry his training saved his life.

Matthew Bower, 31, also described giving CPR to a passenger who had a heart attack on their life raft after he escaped the downed helicopter.

The chemist had only flown offshore up to six times before the crash and he said he was asleep until seconds before the aircraft hit the sea.

Mr Bower was one of 18 people aboard the Super Puma L2 when it ditched on its approach to Sumburgh Airport, Shetland, at 18.17pm on August 23, 2013.

Passengers Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Moray; Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness; Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester, Hampshire, died in the incident.

The two crew members and 12 remaining passengers survived.

Asked if his offshore training was helpful in dealing with the crash, Mr Bower said: “It saved my life on that day, yeah.”

Giving evidence at the virtual hearing on the second day of the inquiry, he said he woke up around 10 or 15 seconds before the aircraft ditched and believed he was experiencing turbulence because he could see Ms Darnley looking panicked.

“We seemed to drop out of the cloud and I remember seeing the sea was significantly closer than expected. I hadn’t heard anything about coming into land at that point,” he said.

“Then it was quite clear that we were falling… I remember falling and I remember seeing sea coming towards us too quickly.

“We’ve hit the water and immediately it went over.”

He later spoke of trying to save the life of Mr McCrossan, who was found in previously agreed written evidence to have died from a heart attack triggered by the stress of the crash.

The inquiry, before Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle, continues.

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