Six offshore workers were
killed and another missing feared dead after
a helicopter belonging to an Aberdeen-based firm ditched into the Irish Sea.
The aircraft, carrying five Centrica employees and two crew, ditched into freezing water 25 miles off the between the Isle of Man and Morecambe Bay on the Lancashire coast.
The Aerospatiale SA-365N Dauphin 2, operated by CHC Scotia Ltd, ditched close to a gas drilling plaftorm on its last journey ferrying workers back to shore.
The search continued last night as hope faded for the one remaining crew. Two RAF helicopters - one from RAF Valley and one from RAF Leconfield - as well as RNLI lifeboats from Fleetwood and Barrow were also helping with the search as were several support vessels.
An RAF spokesman
said signals from a distress beacon from the helicopter were detected after the vessel hit the water.
on its website about its "second to none" safety infrastructure, as well as independent audits by insurance providers that have given the firm the best safety rating in the world.
This year it won a five-year contract starting in 2007 to operate the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) rescue helicopter bases at Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands, Stornaway on the Western Isles
, Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire and Portland in Dorset.
Rescue cover is currently provided by the RAF, the Navy and the coastguard in those areas.
The company currently employs 550 people in the UK, most of whom are based at its European HQ in Aberdeen.
Over 400 on and off-shore staff work for Centrica, who run the two fields in the Irish Sea, and the company supplies around 8% of the UK's peak gas demand.
Around 143 staff are working offshore
at any time. At peak times contractors can swell the number of offshore workers to 176. The workers are transported to the platform by helicopter from Blackpool airport.
Source: The Scotsman