FAMILIES who have waited five years for a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the deaths of 16 men killed when a helicopter plunged into the North Sea have been forced to endure more delays because a document was not available in court.

The probe into the deaths of 14 oil workers and two helicopter pilots who died in April 2009 off the coast of Peterhead ground to a halt for over two hours on the second day of the inquiry.

The FAI had to adjourn just after midday as attempts were made to trace a sample checklist for pilot procedure in emergencies.

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Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle said: "From the families' point of view this has been going on for nearly five years. The fact that there was going to be an FAI has been known for some considerable time.

"It's very unsatisfactory. I have a concern for the victims' families about this.

"I'm keen for the document to be made available so as we can get some sense as to what the pilots had to face."

The 14 oil workers and two pilots on-board the aircraft were killed in the disaster off the coast of Peterhead on April 1, 2009.

The aircraft had been returning from a BP oil platform in the Miller oilfield when the tragedy happened.

Yesterday Tom Marshall, who represents 12 of the families at the inquiry, wanted to quiz a Bond Offshore Helicopters staff member over what steps the pilots would have taken in their final moments. But a sample checklist to explain what procedures they would have followed was not available from Bond.

The chopper firm's representative said that attempts to trace the document had been unsuccessful and that it may still be with the police or air accident investigators.

The document was traced later but by this time the Crown had decided to bring out a different witness.

Earlier in the day helicopter pilot Andrew Miller told the fatal accident inquiry that he did not notice any problems with the gearbox of the helicopter that ditched into the North Sea when he flew it just hours beforehand.

An initial probe found that the Bond-operated AS332-L2 helicopter crashed because of "catastrophic" gearbox failure. Mr Miller, 47, was asked about the intricacies of warning systems and gearbox mechanics at the second day of a fatal accident inquiry yesterday.

The inquiry continues.