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Compensation hopes for families

PUBLISHED: 05:03 18 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:12 24 February 2010

The families of six of the 11 offshore workers killed when their helicopter plunged into the North Sea could gain millions of pounds in compensation.

This week saw the six-month anniversary of the tragedy in July when the Sikorsky owned by Norwich-based Bristow helicopters crashed on a routine shuttle service.

The families of six of the 11 offshore workers killed when their helicopter plunged into the North Sea could gain millions of pounds in compensation.

This week saw the six-month anniversary of the tragedy in July when the Sikorsky owned by Norwich-based Bristow helicopters crashed on a routine shuttle service.

It was approaching the Santa Fe Monarch drilling rig in the Leman Field, about 25 miles from the mainland, to drop off one last passenger before returning to Norwich.

Research into the crash has shown that a manufacturing defect in one of the rotor blades, exacerbated by a lightning strike in 1999, caused the blade to snap which led flight Victor X-ray to plunge into the water.

Two US companies, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the manufacturers of the helicopter and Composite Technology Inc, which checked the blade after the lightning strike, are both being sued for the inadequacy of their manufacture and repair.

American Terry Ford, a consultant working on behalf of lawyers representing six of the families bereaved by the accident, yesterday said the compensation process was making good progress.

"We are very happy. We are fully expecting the case to be amicably resolved. The question is not whether they'll get money but how much will they get," he said.

As a whole, the group of six families are likely to be entitled to millions of pounds, but Mr Ford would be not be drawn on specific sums for each family.

"Everyone wants to know sums but I can't disclose that information. It might prejudice ongoing discussions and raise the hopes of the families involved.

"You can never bring the man back, you can never make up for the grief – no money in the world can do that, but the economic pressure of being a single mum will be erased in a moment through the compensation," he said.

Mr Ford, a former lawyer from California, said the process had been extremely smooth and quick because of the efficiency of the Air Accident Investigation Board and the co-operation of Sikorsky. He hopes the families will receive the money within a few months.

Bristow is already in the process of paying compensation to all the families involved.

The company is in no way at fault for the crash but had the contract to charter the shuttle-service flights.

It is in the process of launching its own claim against Sikorsky and two suppliers that provided parts.

The families of Paul Francis of Norwich, David Graves of Beccles, and Kevin Taylor of Little Plumstead are three of the six families being represented by Mr Ford.

Last night a spokesman for Sikorsky said he could not comment on matters of pending litigation.

Just before Christmas all of the families received a sum of money from the Helicopter Tragedy Fund which was launched by oil and gas firm Amec after the accident. More than £400,000 has been raise.

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