The Transportation Safety Board says it will attempt to recover the helicopter which went down off Newfoundland. The Coast Guard is currently serving as the lead in relation to the accident, but once it moves from search and rescue to recovery the Transportation Safety Board takes over. Lead investigator Mike Cunningham says their priority will be to recover the helicopter and provide answers to the families as to what went on. The TSB has committed to briefing the families twice a day. Debris from the six nautical mile area is already being recovered and includes items such as papers and personal items. Cunningham says once they move into recovery mode and weather conditions cooperate, it could take as little as a week to recover the aircraft depending on the condition of the helicopter.
Meanwhile, Premier Danny Williams is going before the microphones this afternoon to talk about the situation.
The hours are ticking away, and Search and Rescue efforts have still come up empty in the search for the 16 missing people from the Cougar helicopter crash. Major Denis McGuire with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax says they will continue to focus their search efforts on the surface of the water until they hand it over to the RCMP and Transportation Safety Board who will decide whether to lower a camera or conduct an underwater search. The names of the victims will also be withheld until released by police at a later time. A search update has been scheduled for 5:00 pm.
The one survivor, Robert Decker, is beginning to show signs of some recovery according to Trevor Pritchard of Husky Energy, but he did not have any further information on his condition. Decker was plucked from the water by another Cougar helicopter, where he is listed in critical but stable condition. Meanwhile, some workers on board the SeaRose FPSO have been removed from the rig. They came ashore via one of the supply vessels. Husky says it was for various reasons, and that some 14 workers were removed. Pritchard, says this is a very difficult time. He says they remain hopeful. Husky Energy has put a number of measures in place to help the families of the victims and their co-workers. Pritchard says they have staff working with employees to assess whatever needs they may have at this difficult time. He says production offshore is continuing, but active work has stopped for the time being.
Offshore workers are trained in safety and rescue procedures. Rick Burt of Cougar Helicopters says the workers, in their survival suits, would have prepared for a ‘ditch’. Burt says once the aircraft was in the water, they’re trained to evacuate immediately.
At the time the Cougar helicopter went down, there were no Cormorant helicopters at 9 Wing Gander. Major Denis McGuire says three Cormorants and twp C-130’s were dispatched from Sydney, Nova Scotia. It took the aircraft approximately one hour to reach the scene. McGuire says the Cormorants normally in Gander were involved in a training exercise near Sydney. Major McGuire says it’s hard to predict where a Search and Rescue aircraft will be needed. A Cougar helicopter was the first on the scene, aided by a fixed-wing aircraft from Provincial Airlines.
Don Squires of St. John’s works on the Hibernia Platform, but is home nursing an injury he suffered in a recent car accident. Otherwise, he says he’d be back to work. Squires was just one of many employees and co-workers looking for answers yesterday, concerned for the men he calls his “family”.
Perry White of Mount Pearl was scheduled to go offshore yesterday, but was delayed for a day because of the flu. His son Matt, says his father is shaken and the entire family is waiting to hear the latest news.
Premier Danny Williams says he cannot begin to imagine the sorrow and despair of those who are left to mourn the tragedy. He says the thoughts and prayers of everyone are with those affected during this most difficult time.
St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe says resilience has brought us to where we are today, and resilience will guide us again in future. He has expressed condolences and support to the families affected by the tragedy.