Oil rig chopper ditches in Atlantic with 18 on board


ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A helicopter carrying 18 offshore oil workers has ditched in the Atlantic off the east coast of Newfoundland, the Canadian Coast Guard says.

“There’s no sign of the helicopter,” said Jeri Grychowski of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax. However, she said two people were spotted in the water, as well as a life-raft. The coast guard said the workers were with the Hibernia production platform but Hibernia was referring calls to Husky, which operates the White Rose field.

The helicopter, operated by Cougar Helicopters of St. John’s, went down 87 kilometres southeast of St. John’s. Police were blocking the road to the Cougar office.

The first call for help was placed to air traffic control in Gander, N.L., at 9:18 a.m. local time.

A fixed-wing aircraft from Provincial Airlines was in the area providing “top cover,” Grychowski said.

A Hercules aircraft was also dispatched, along with four Cormorant rescue helicopters from Gander and Greenwood, N.S.

The coast guard fishery patrol vessel Cape Roger and a supply ship were about an hour away when the call came in.

Grychowski said the winds in the area were fairly strong at 37 kilometres per hour and the wave heights were about two to three metres.

Deborah Collins, a spokeswoman for the Eastern Health board, said the emergency room was being cleared at a St. John’s hospital.

“We have gone into a state of preparation,” she said. “We’re still waiting for information.”

She added they were preparing for the possibility of “critically ill or hypothermic people.”



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