11 dead, two missing after helicopter crashes at Norway coast

Eleven people were confirmed dead Friday after a helicopter ferrying North Sea oil platform workers crashed off the coast of western Norway, emergency services and police said Friday.

Anders Bang Andersen, spokesman for the Joint Rescue Coordination for southern Norway, said the search was still underway for two missing people.

Initial reports said there were 11 passengers and two crew members onboard.

The spokesman said 11 onboard the helicopter were Norwegian nationals, one was British and one was Italian, but the identities of the deceased were unclear.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre for southern Norway has coordinated a large search and rescue operation, partly at sea and on land.

"The rotor blade has been found, while parts of the helicopter have been located six, seven metres under the water line," Bang Andersen told reporters.

Duty officer Morten Kronen with the Bergen police earlier told the Bergens Tidende daily that bodies had been found on land.

Bang Andersen told reporters that a distress signal was registered at 1201 (1001 GMT), triggering the search and rescue operation.

Local broadcaster NRK earlier showed images of smoke billowing from the crash site near Turoy, about 40 kilometres from the city of Bergen. The fire was later extinguished.

The helicopter was heading for Bergen from the Gullfaks B oil platform, which is operated by Norwegian energy company Statoil.

A Statoil spokesman said the company has mobilized its emergency response team, and set up an emergency hotline.

Local newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad reported that the helicopter was operated by the firm CHC Helicopter Service, and was a Eurocopter model EC225.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Twitter she was being briefed about the accident.

A witness, Jon Sekkingstad, told NRK he heard a loud bang, and saw the main rotor blade fly off from the helicopter, and an explosion when it hit the ground.

Helicopters and boats have been deployed to the scene. Part of the the wreckage was located on a small island, and also in the sea.

The Norwegian defence forces deployed three vessels and four divers.

The airspace around the crash site has also been closed for non-authorized aircraft, including drones, local police said.

Last update: Fri, 29/04/2016 - 16:52

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