A Lossiemouth based helicopter crew were involved in the dramatic evacuation of 52 oil workers from a North Sea rig this week when it came under threat from a distressed ship carrying radioactive materials.
The Sea King from D Flight, 202 Squadron at the Moray base was called into action along with the Sumburgh Coastguard helicopter when the ‘Parida’ experienced problems when transporting the waste from the Dounrey site in Caithness to Antwerp.
A fire broke out in one of the Parida’s two funnels that forced the crew to shut down her engines – but the ferocity of the weather on Tuesday evening was forcing her to drift towards the Beartrice rig.
The helicopters evacuated 52 workers from the rig to safety while a tug was despatched to tow the stricken Parida to safety.
Captain of the RAF helicopter was Flight Lieutenant Greg Lings who said: “This was our third call of the day that had been effected in some way by the strong weather.
“The weather on the scene was challenging – with winds up to 50 knots, which made it a little turbulent on the helideck but not overly difficult, and visibility reduced by heavy rain showers.
“Because of the number of people we needed to evacuate from the rig, we had to carefully consider the numbers of people we could carry in the Sea King so as not to exceed its load capabilities.
“At one stage we even had to leave our Winchman on the rig in order to get the full capacity of people on board on the first run. However, working alongside the Coastguard helicopter, we were able to get all the rig workers safely to RAF Lossiemouth.”
Four shuttles were required by the rescue helicopters to bring the workers from the platform, which was approximately 30 miles north of the base.
The rig personnel were collected from RAF Lossiemouth by coach in the early hours of Wednesday morning and taken to the Junior Ranks’ Mess on the base before a fleet of taxis were organised to return them to Aberdeen.
Wing Commander Jim Walls, acting Station Commander of RAF Lossiemouth, was justifiably proud of the impromptu actions of station personnel involved in the rescue and who looked after the rig workers at the base.
He said: “Although D Flt 202 Sqn is based here, as a fast jet main operating base we don’t routinely deal with such large numbers of people in distress.
“The rapid support provided by our transport, catering and police sections to those people rescued was exemplary.
“This task has once again highlighted to me the flexibility and resilience of our men and women.
“No matter what the task, or the time of day, they can be counted on to deliver.”