22/10/2012 16:36 BST | Updated 22/10/2012 21:51 BST

Helicopter Ditches In North Sea Between Orkney And Shetland

Updated 18:06, 22 Oct 2012 - news of crew and passengers

All 19 people on board a helicopter that ditched in the North Sea are safe and well and have returned to land, the coastguard has said.

The CHC helicopter was carrying an oil-change crew from Aberdeen to a rig 86 miles north-west of Shetland when it ditched at around 3.30pm on Monday.

Three RNLI lifeboats were launched from Kirkwall in Orkney and Aith and Lerwick in Shetland, and a rescue craft was also sent from the Nord Nightingale vessel which was close to the scene, about 32 miles south-west of Shetland.

Rescue helicopters from the coastguard, RAF Lossiemouth and Bond were also launched and all 19 people were found safe.

No one was injured in the ditching and those on board are being taken by helicopter to Kirkwall in Orkney, the coastguard said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We are aware that a helicopter has ditched in the North Sea, south of Sumburgh. And we understand that all 19 people on board are now safe and well following the dispatch of emergency services to the site.

"Scottish ministers are being kept updated on the situation and we will release further information when it becomes known."

A spokesman for the coastguard said the weather in the area was good.

"It has been quite calm today and that has been favourable in terms of getting the rescue crews to the scene quickly."

It is understood the helicopter made a "controlled ditching" into the sea.

A statement from CHC Helicopter said: "We can confirm that there has been an incident involving one of our aircraft in the North Sea, approximately 32 miles south-west of Shetland. Exact details of the incident, which happened at approximately 3.30pm, are not yet known.

"The appropriate authorities have been informed and the company's incident management team has been mobilised. Further details will be released when more information becomes available."

In May all 14 passengers and crew members on a Super Puma helicopter were rescued after it ditched about 30 miles off the coast of Aberdeen. It was on a scheduled flight from Aberdeen Airport to a platform in the North Sea at the time.

Earlier 16 people died when a Super Puma plunged into the sea. Its gearbox failed while carrying the men to Aberdeen. The Bond-operated helicopter was returning from the BP Miller platform when it went down off the Aberdeenshire coast on April 1 2009.

This happened about six weeks after another Bond Super Puma with 18 people on board ditched in the North Sea as it approached a production platform owned by BP. Everyone survived that accident.

Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond said: "It will be a huge relief to all of the friends, family and colleagues of Scotland's offshore workers that each one of the 19 people aboard the helicopter that ditched in the North Sea this afternoon have now been accounted for and are safe and well.

"Once again, the response to this incident by our emergency services was fantastic and their continued bravery and expertise will bring great reassurance to every offshore worker who is required to use helicopters in challenging conditions regularly throughout their working lives."

CHC said arrangements are being made to return the 17 passengers and two crew back to Aberdeen from Orkney.

A team from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch is travelling to the north east of Scotland to determine the cause of the incident. CHC said flights using the EC225 Super Puma model are being temporarily suspended.

Nick Mair, regional vice president of western North Sea at CHC, said: "CHC's primary objective is always the safety of our passengers and people, and our pilots' actions today are consistent with that. The most important fact is that our customers and people are safe. We have spoken with the crew and we understand that no one is injured.

"Plans are under way for the recovery of the aircraft. We are temporarily holding flights using the same type of EC225 aircraft pending receipt or confirmation of certain information from the crew involved in today's incident and technical follow-up."