Updated at 22.32
FIFTEEN PEOPLE HAVE been rescued and three are still missing after a helicopter carrying eighteen – sixteen passengers and two crew – crashed into the sea near Shetland, to the north of Scotland earlier this evening.
It came down several miles west of the islands shortly before 7pm.
The Scottish coastguard says an air and sea search is being conducted and lifeboats have been dispatched to the crash site. A ferry travelling to Aberdeen has also been been diverted to the scene.
Jim Nicholson of the RNLI told the BBC that the helicopter was now in an “inaccessible” position near cliffs. “There is quite a lot of tide in that area so any person in the water could be carried some distance away.”
The helicopter – operated by CHC, one of the world’s largest helicopter service companies – was contracted to transport people to and from off-shore oil and gas platforms.
There have been two previous ditchings involving CHC-operated helicopters in the area in the past 18 months. In May of last year, 14 people were rescued after a Super Puma helicopter came down off the coast of Aberdeen. 19 people were rescued after a Super Puma ditched into the sea near Shetland last October.
The Shetland Islands lie some 80km north of Orkney in northern Scotland and form part of the division between the Atlantic and the North Sea.
The weather forecast for the area this evening was overcast with areas of low cloud and mist.
- Additional reporting by AFP