Alistair Carmichael today raised the cases of the five-and-a-half year delay so far in holding a fatal accident inquiry into the 2013 Super Puma helicopter crash off Sumburgh Head in Shetland.
Speaking of the accident, Mr. Carmichael said:
“The four people who were killed in that came from different parts of the UK, from Inverness all the way down to Winchester. It is surely unacceptable that five and a half years after that tragic accident, that the families have still not had the closure that they will get from a fatal accident inquiry being held.
“This is not an isolated incident. The Super Puma helicopter which crashed about 24km to the North East of Peterhead in 2009 did not have the fatal accident inquiry held until 2013, so that was four years after the accident. We are now five and a half years, and we do not yet know if there are going to be prosecutions or a fatal accident inquiry.”
Mr. Carmichael also called for better cooperation between the Air Accident Investigation Branch, the Police and Procurator Fiscals. He said:
“I have been told by the Lord Advocate that that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service had to get a court order, had to raise legal proceedings in order to get the voice and flight data recording from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB). I understand the need to keep the integrity of the AAIB in tact, but surely we are dealing here with two public bodies, both broadly charged with the same responsibilities; public safety, and the investigation and prosecution of crime or deaths in the course of employment, surely there is a better way than having one public body take another public body to court.”
Responding to the points Mr. Carmichael raised, the Minister of State for Transport, Mr. Jesse Norman MP, said:
“The Rt. Hon. Member was wise to point to the potential conflict of different of jurisdictions which already exist, and the delays and the lack of closure for families as being part of the concerns that he has.”
Speaking after the exchange, Mr. Carmichael added:
“I understand that the issues around fatal accident inquiries are complex and difficult, but it does not always have to take so long. My earliest involvement in this was as a student where I assisted the Prosecutor Fiscal conducting the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Cormorant Alpha Helicopter disaster. That happened in March 1992 and the Fatal Accident Inquiry was completed by April 1993. We need to get back in a place where we are looking at the duration of these processes being measured in months, not years.
“More cooperation between the Civil Aviation Authority, Police, and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service could help resolve these cases more quickly and give important closure to the families who have lost loved ones.”