Offshore helicopter crashes are just one of the many dangers facing oil rig crews in the Gulf of Mexico. With oil platforms often hundreds of miles from the coast, ferrying workers to and from the mainland by helicopter is likely the most efficient method. But is it the safest way? Do oil companies and the helicopter companies they hire do enough to ensure the well-being of oil rig workers?
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports five offshore helicopter crashes in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007 alone. One of these, on February 12, 2007, was a fatal accident.
The incident occurred when the pilot of a Eurocopter France, operated by ERA Helicopters, was approaching the Vermillion 200A oil rig for landing. There were no witnesses to the accident, though many workers on board the oil platform reported that they could hear the helicopter. They said that they felt the structure shake, and then could no longer hear the helicopter’s engine.
The NTSB determined the probable causes of the helicopter accident to be pilot error, with bad weather as a contributing factor:
“The pilot’s inadequate compensation for the gusty wind conditions which resulted in his failure to maintain clearance with the structure extending from the offshore oil platform. Contributing to the accident was the gusty wind condition,” the report reads.
Both the pilot and his passenger died in the helicopter crash.
Pilot Error and Bad Weather
Pilot error is by far the leading cause of all aviation accidents in general. But it is especially true of helicopter crashes in the Gulf of Mexico. Of the four accidents in 2007 that have final reports, three list pilot error to be the primary probable cause. Bad weather is listed as a secondary cause in one event.
There are more than 3,900 oil platforms operating in the Gulf of Mexico and about 30,000 workers who commute back and forth from the rigs. In most cases, shifts are designed as two weeks on, two weeks off, meaning that twice a month workers must make the perilous helicopter journey. Bad weather and “gusty wind conditions” are common in the Gulf, and one small break in a pilot’s concentration can have catastrophic results.
Who Can Offshore Workers Turn To After a Helicopter Accident?
For those injured in an offshore helicopter accident, the question of compensation quickly becomes complicated. The oil company and/or the helicopter company may offer a settlement, but it is usually far below what the worker deserves. Similarly Workers’ Compensation is often very limited.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an offshore helicopter crash, you need an experienced attorney on your side to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. David P. Willis has successfully fought and won cases for clients involved in helicopter accidents, and he may be able to help you secure the settlement you need to cover lost wages, hospital bills, and pain and suffering. Contact the Willis Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.