Bristow sues Sikorsky over S-76 crash

 - January 15, 2008, 5:44 AM

Bristow Helicopters’ insurance companies have started legal action against Sikorsky Aircraft over the July 16, 2002 crash of an S-76A in the UK sector of the North Sea. The aircraft crashed as it was approaching Shell UK’s Santa Fe Monarch drilling rig in its Leman gas field, 45 miles north of Lowestoft. All 11 people on board were killed in the accident, which occurred at 7:44 p.m. According to a statement by the UK helicopter operator, the proceedings were started at London’s Commercial Court on December 10. This was confirmed by a court official. Sikorsky declined to comment on the matter.

The Bristow statement said that its insurers are “seeking compensation and an indemnity from Sikorsky Aircraft, [parent] United Technologies and Composite Technologies with regard to its losses and potential liabilities.” The insurance companies are also asking the Commercial Court (part of London’s High Court) to confirm “the basis upon which any claims on behalf of passengers, crew and Shell should be determined by English law.”

Bristow has denied any blame for the accident and is arguing that it should not have to be involved in any litigation outside England. “This action by the company’s insurers in no way precludes, nor is it intended to preclude, any claims by dependents of the passengers and crew being made against Sikorsky, UTC and CTI,” Bristow’s statement concluded.

According to a special bulletin issued by the Air Accident Investigation Branch of the UK Department for Transport, a sudden fracture of one of the S-76’s main rotor blades caused the accident. Analysis by Britain’s Qinetiq research agency found that “clear evidence of fatigue was present, indicating that approximately half the circumference of the blade’s titanium spar had failed before the outer portion separated.” The full inquiry is still in progress.