The search operation launched after a helicopter crashed off the coast of western Norway has been called off and all 13 people on board are presumed dead, rescue officials said.
Jon Sjursoe, a spokesman for Norway’s Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, said the Eurocopter EC-225 helicopter was carrying 11 Norwegians, one Briton, and one Italian from the Gullfaks B oil field in the North Sea to Bergen, 120km away on the Norwegian mainland.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK said 11 people on board were employed by the Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil ASA.
Police spokesman Morten Kronen said the helicopter “totally smashed” as it hit the island of Turoey, near Bergen, and the 11 victims were found on land. Two were reported missing but officials later said that they were also presumed dead.
The helicopter’s fuselage was found in the water off the island while its rotor system was on land, Mr Sjursoe said.
“It is a very small island and (helicopter) parts are spread partly on land, partly in the sea,” he added.
Norwegian media posted photos of huge billows of smoke.
Witness Rebecca Andersen told Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang that the helicopter’s “rotor blades came rushing towards us”.
“Then we heard a violent explosion,” Ms Andersen was quoted as saying.
Statoil said that it had mobilised its emergency response team and had “temporarily grounded all equivalent traffic helicopters”.
The company also said it is sending support staff to Bergen to help families of the crash victims.
Statoil said psychologists and other experienced staff will be available at a Bergen hotel. It confirmed that the chartered helicopter was “on assignment for Statoil”.
British authorities are deploying air accident investigators to Norway to help assist in the inquiry.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is taking part because the UK has investigated several crashes involving helicopters operating to and from offshore oil fields in recent years.
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