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Construction begins on Newfoundland offshore memorial

(Canadian OH&S News) 


(Canadian OH&S News) 

Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador have begun construction of the Offshore Helicopter Accident Memorial, with completion and unveiling of the sculpture anticipated by late summer.

The memorial, to be located at Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s, will pay tribute to two helicopter crashes that claimed the lives of 23 workers. The first occurred on March 13, 1985, when a Universal helicopter crashed after leaving the Bow Drill oil rig in Placentia Bay, claiming the lives of six offshore workers. On March 12, 2009, a Cougar Helicopter Inc. Sikorsky S-92A helicopter crashed while en route to the SeaRose floating production, storage and offloading unit in the White Rose oil field and a platform in the Hibernia oilfield. Seventeen of the 18 people onboard died.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation said in a statement that the memorial was chosen through competition by a committee of family members and representatives from the provincial government, industry, labour and the arts community. Its design includes a spiraling stainless steel sculpture at its centre, representing the aerial screw prototype of the first rotary-type flying machine envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century, the statement said. The names of the 23 victims of both helicopter crashes will be cut into the stainless steel along the spiral of the aerial screw.

The construction of the steel mock-up of the sculpture will be completed within the “coming weeks,” with fabrication of the memorial beginning shortly after, the statement said. The provincial government has allocated $400,000 for the establishment of the memorial, with Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore oil industry providing an additional $90,000.

“Our government made a commitment to the families and friends of the victims of these accidents that their memories would be honoured with a fitting memorial,” said Terry French, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, in the statement. “We feel the Luben Boykov and Frederick Hann design chosen several months ago will achieve this goal, as it incorporates a number of elements to help enshrine the memories of these individuals who tragically lost their lives.”

Two months after the Sikorsky helicopter crash, the offshore industry regulator, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), announced a commission into offshore helicopter passenger safety, led by commissioner Robert Wells. The C-NLOPB released Wells’s report in 2010 and as of April 2013, 14 recommendations had been implemented, with all others at various stages of implementation, confirmed Sean Kelly, manager of public relations for the C-NLOPB.

Efforts continue in a number of areas, including research and development into side flotation on helicopters and sea state measurement. The C-NLOPB is currently working on a multi-tiered, performance-based safety oversight management system, the next generation of helicopter transportation suits is being tested and an operation safety review of Cougar Helicopters is underway.

New simulator developed for underwater egress

Key safety improvements made to date include the following:

* Dedicated search and rescue response capability at Cougar Helicopters, with “wheels up” in 15 to 20 minutes;

*A new simulator for helicopter underwater egress training, more closely resembling the Sikorsky S-92, at the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre at the Memorial University of Newfoundland;

* Enhanced basic survival training, including greater fidelity with respect to underwater escape from a helicopter;

* Improvements in helicopter transportation suits, with a requirement that every individual must have a properly fitted suit;

* Additional personal protective equipment, including an underwater breathing apparatus attached to the suit;

* A kiosk at the heliport to facilitate passengers’ access to airworthiness directives and in-flight occurrences;

* Passengers briefed by pilots on any incident that occurred during the flight;

* Safety forums organized by the offshore petroleum board; and

* A helicopter operations safety committee comprised of operators, Cougar pilots, workers and the C-NLOPB.