Fresh hope for families of North Sea diving pioneers



By Declan Harte

The families of British deep-sea divers killed in the early days of North Sea oil have been given fresh hope in a campaign for compensation.

Relatives have claimed for years the men were sent on dangerous missions without proper safety equipment.

They sought damages from the Norwegian government, which owned the oil fields where the men worked, submitting a case to the district court in Oslo.

But a judge ruled last September that ministers were not legally responsible for their deaths.

Now, the North Sea Divers’ Alliance has said the application could be resurrected after a senior government adviser spoke out in its favour.

Kari Todnem, medical director of St Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim and a member of the committee examining claims relating to the so-called “pioneer divers”, said the case must be reopened.

She said: “These were young men who made a commitment for Norway in the North Sea and were killed.

“It’s really quite terrible and I feel ashamed. Counsel can revisit this if it wants.”

Alliance spokesman Tom Wingen, a former diver, said of the announcement: “It has caused quite a kerfuffle in the Norwegian media and the issue has been taken up by the main opposition party.

“While I belive they now have no option but to award compensation they’ll no doubt try to find a way to make out they are the heroes before they make an announcement.”

It is believed 17 divers lost their lives working in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea in the first 25 years of its commercial exploration, including 12 Britons.

Bill Crammond, of Dalgety Bay in Fife, was killed in a deep-sea explosion in 1983. His widow, Ruth, received no form of reparations.


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