UK & World News
Helicopter Crashes Into Sea Off Shetland
Three people are missing after a helicopter carrying 18 passengers crashed into the sea just as it was coming into land on the Shetland Isles.
The incident happened at about 6.20pm two miles west of Sumburgh airport, which is at the very southern tip of the main island.
Sky News understands that 15 people on board have been rescued and are being treated in hospital in Lerwick.
They were picked up by the coastguard and carried to the Clickimin emergency landing site on the edge of Shetland's capital.
The exact condition of the casualties is not known. Eight of them were reported to have walked off the rescue aircraft.
All those who were seen arriving at Lerwick having been rescued were wearing the standard yellow survival suits, which can sustain life even when someone spends several hours in the sea.
Jim Nicholson, RNLI rescue co-ordinator, said: "I believe that the helicopter is in a fairly inaccessible position at the moment near the cliffs.
"There's quite a lot of tide in that area so any person in the water could be carried some distance away.
"It will be becoming much more difficult with darkness but I have no doubt that those involved are putting in every effort to try to obtain the best possible outcome."
A spokesman for the coastguard said its rescue helicopter based in Shetland, the RAF rescue helicopter from Lossiemouth and two Bond helicopters were sent to the scene along with the RNLI all-weather lifeboats from Aith and Lerwick
The helicopters and lifeboats on scene are continuing to search, he added. A specialist medical team has being flown out from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to Lerwick.
The crashed helicopter is understood to have ditched as the aircraft was making its final approach to land. Witnesses said they saw it drop out of the sky into the water below.
Police Scotland said a major incident had been declared. Sumburgh Airport is currently closed to allow emergency services to deal with the ongoing incident.
A spokesman said all those rescued had been taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.
The oil industry's Jigsaw helicopter is on the scene as are the NorthLink ferry Hjaltland, the Northlink cargo boat Helliar and the salmon carrier Gerda Saele.
The helicopter's life rafts were found empty and some wreckage from the aircraft has started to wash up at the southern end of Sumburgh, the coastguard said.
The search is being hampered by extremely poor visibility, reported to be down to less than 50 metres.
The helicopter that crashed was a Eurocopter Super Puma AS332 L2 operated by CHC.
It was taking people to and from the Borgsten Dolphin rig which is anchored in the North Sea, about 50 miles east of Shetland's northern tip.
A statement released by CHC said: "CHC Helicopter can confirm that there has been an incident involving one of our aircraft in the North Sea, approximately two miles off Sumburgh.
"Exact details of the incident, which happened at approximately 6.20pm are not yet known.
"The appropriate authorities have been informed and the company's Incident Management Team is being mobilised."
The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch is deploying a team to look into what happened.
Last year, two helicopters ditched in the North Sea only six months apart. All passengers and crew were rescued in both incidents which were found to be caused by gearbox problems.
Super Puma EC 225s, the updated version of the AS332 L2, were grounded in the wake of the two incidents but were given approval to fly again and services resumed earlier this month.
Following the 1988 Piper Alpha platform disaster, all oil workers are taught in a simulator what to do in the event of a helicopter ditch into the sea.
Worried relatives have been given a helpline to call: 01224 296866.