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(Image courtesy of Bond Offshore Helicopters)

A fatal North Sea helicopter crash in 2009 could have been prevented, according to a Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI).

16 oil workers were killed then the Super Puma helicopter they were being transported in lost control and careened into the North Sea.

Sherriff Derek Pyle’s investigation results into the accident were published Thursday. In them he stated that reasonable precautions taken by the operator Bond Offshore Helicopters might have avoided the deaths.

The “determination” issued by Sheriff Pyle noted that the cause of the accident was a catastrophic failure of the helicopter’s main gearbox.

The planet gear had fractured as a result of a fatigue crack with the only indication that it had fractured being a metallic particle that had been discovered on the helicopter’s epicyclic chip detector on March 25, 2009, nearly 36 flying hours before the accident.

The investigation found that the aircraft’s operator failed to perform a maintenance task after the metal particle had been discovered.

Sheriff Pyle’s report had also noted that even if Bond had followed the correct procedure, there may not have been sufficient evidence of particles to warrant the removal of the gearbox.

In the statement, Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty commented that his union is “bitterly disappointed the FAI findings highlight a number of maintenance and safety inspection failures on the part of Bond, failures which remain a possibility for cause of this fatal crash, yet the operator can escape any form of punishment from industry regulators or prosecution from the COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service)”.