MIRI: The pilots flying the Super Puma helicopter that went down in the South China Sea near Shell Malaysia's B11 gas exploration platform have been described as heroes for averting a major tragedy.
Shell Malaysia chairman Datuk Jon Chadwick said veteran pilot Kapt Raj Kumar, 41, and First Officer Adnan Hairi, a former Royal Malaysian Air Force pilot, had saved the lives of 11 passengers and 29 people working on board the multi-billion structure.
“So many lives were saved because these pilots dealt with the emergency situation professionally and calmly.
“The fact that there were no fatalities was because of comprehensive training. The pilots are the real heroes in this incident.
“The other 11 on board also had extensive training on how to deal with such incidents and that is why they managed to evacuate to safety,” he said yesterday.
The incident happened on Saturday noon near the B11 gas platform some 170km offshore Bintulu.
The platform has a production capacity of some 16.9 mil cubic metres per day of gas, channelled to the world's largest liquefied natural gas production complex on the shore of Bintulu town.
It is learnt that 29 people were working on the platform structure during the time of the incident.
The 11 passengers on board the 18-seater Malaysian Helicopter Services (MHS) Aviation copter were on their way to the platform from the helicopter base in Miri when the copter encountered difficulties and aborted the landing attempt before hitting the ocean.
Shell charters the MHS copters to send their crew to the offshore fields in Sarawak.
Chadwick said Shell Malaysia would leave no stone unturned to find out what had caused the incident.
“At the moment, all we know is that the pilot reported that the copter faced technical problems and was difficult to control. The pilot aborted the landing and proceeded with a controlled emergency landing but the copter flipped while on the waters and sank within minutes,” he said.
Chadwick said all the survivors were fine, with only three now under observation at the Columbia Asia Medical Centre in Miri and would be released soon.
Shell Malaysia will salvage the sunken copter and hand it over to the Department of Civil Aviation for further investigations.
The copter is now 91.5m deep on the ocean floor.
Meanwhile, two other Super Puma helicopters belonging to MHS that are used to ferry workers to the Shell platforms have been grounded for thorough inspection.
Chadwick said comprehensive tests would be done to ensure the two copters were in good condition.
He added that Shell would find other alternative means to ferry its crew to the platforms for the time being.
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