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Clutha lawyers in call for public inquiry on safety

LAWYERS representing victims of the Clutha helicopter crash are calling on the Secretary of State for Transport to launch a public inquiry into UK helicopter safety after a series of tragedies on land and offshore.

In a letter to Patrick McLoughlin, specialist aviation lawyer Irwin Mitchell urges the minister to review the laws that exempt helicopters from having to carry black box data recorders.

The letter, also sent to David Cameron and Alex Salmond, calls for a full public inquiry to examine the safety of commercial helicopter flights, the effectiveness of the industry's regulators and the UK's safety record compared to other countries.

Last night the Department for Transport (DfT) ruled out such a move while the air accident investigation is under way.

The legal firm is among those pursuing compensation on behalf of those injured or bereaved when a Police Scotland Eurocopter EC135 crashed into the roof of the Clutha pub in Glasgow on November 29 last year, killing 10 people.

Clive Garner, head of Irwin Mitchell's aviation law team, said: "The tragedy in Glasgow has put a spotlight on the issue of helicopter safety, but the unfortunate truth is it is just the latest in a string of tragedies, and urgent action is needed to ensure helicopter safety standards are reviewed and improvements made where necessary. Our clients rightly want answers and reassurances no-one else will have to go through the ordeals they have been through."

The firm also represents victims of a number of other recent helicopter tragedies, including the ditching of another Eurocopter in the North Sea in October 2012 and a crash involving an Augusta Westland helicopter in January 2013.

Helicopter safety has also been in the spotlight as a result of the ongoing fatal accident inquiry into the Bond Super Puma crash in April 2009, which ditched in the North Sea as a result of "catastrophic gearbox failure", killing all 16 on board.

The oil industry was struck by tragedy yet again in August last year when a Eurocopter Super Puma ditched off Shetland while carrying rig workers. Four of the 16 passengers on board died. Irwin Mitchell is representing workers and families affected.

Mr Garner reiterated calls for all commercial passenger-carrying helicopters in UK airspace have black boxes.

He said: "In the Clutha tragedy, we have a sophisticated twin engine helicopter that crashed into a city but there is no black box evidence to assist the investigators and quickly identify the cause of this accident. The police helicopter was not required to carry this equipment because the applicable rule exempts helicopters which weigh less than 3,175kg."

All European operators flying the type of helicopter have been ordered by the European Aviation safety Agency to fit black boxes by 2017.

A DfT spokesman said: "The Air Accidents Investigation Branch's investigation into the accident is ongoing. It would therefore be inappropriate to consider a public inquiry at this time."

l A SUPER Puma L2 helicopter carrying 14 people diverted to Sumburgh on Shetland last night after an indicator light came on in the cockpit. Nobody was injured.

Contextual targeting label: 
Transport Tragedy

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