A FATAL accident inquiry opens today in Aberdeen into the Super Puma

helicopter crash which killed 11 North Sea oil-workers in March this


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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

blizzard conditions.

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.