The accident is the worst helicopter tragedy in the North Sea since 45
men died in a Chinook crash in 1986.
Six men survived the Super Puma accident, which happened as the
helicopter was taking workers on a two-minute hop from the Safe
Supporter accommodation barge to Shell's Cormorant Alpha oil platform in
The flight was the first of three routine shuttle trips. The
installations had been linked by a telescopic gangway until three days
before the accident, when one of the accommodation barge's anchors
The inquiry is expected to last until February. A team of legal
representatives, including three QCs, will sift the evidence.
A key witness will be pilot Jonathan Shelbourne, who was sacked after
an internal investigation by helicopter owners Bristows. He will be
asked why he flew the aircraft despite the bad weather conditions.
The helicopter's black box flight recorder, which was recovered from
the wreckage lying in 400 feet of water, will also be available to the
Evidence is also expected from the six survivors -- two of them
brothers, Gavin and Andrew Innes, from Leven in Fife.
The survivors have already told how the helicopter veered to the right
after take-off before plunging into the sea.
The inquiry is being headed y Sheriff Alexander Jessop, a former
procurator fiscal in both Aberdeen and Glasgow.
Mr Ray Craig, Aberdeen's offshore fiscal and a former seaman, will
present the case for the Crown, and there are eight other parties
Fifty-one witnesses have been cited to appear, including survivors,
widows, and accident investigators.
The inquiry will be held in Aberdeen's Exhibition and Conference
Centre. The Piper Alpha inquiry -- which lasted 14 months -- was held
there, as were the similarly lengthy Ocean Odyssey rig explosion and the
Brent Spar helicopter crash inquiries.