British Helicopter Crash Kills 6, Leaves 1 Missing

A helicopter carrying natural gas workers crashed off the northwest English coast Wednesday night, killing six people and leaving the only other person aboard missing, authorities said.

The bodies of the six victims were recovered from the cold waters of Morecambe Bay east of the Isle of Man, Lancashire police and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said.

Two air force helicopters, two lifeboats and other vessels searched for the seventh person, but winds of more than 25 mph were hampering the effort, said Coastguard spokesman Jim Paton.

The helicopter was carrying five employees of the energy company Centrica PLC and two crew members when it went down within two miles of a Centrica gas rig, about 25 miles off the coast, authorities said.

Mick Gradwell, Detective Superintendent for the Lancashire police, said the search was focusing near a drilling platform and confirmed that all the bodies recovered so far were men. He said several people on a rig who saw the Eurocopter AS365N ditch into the sea would be questioned to help determine the cause of the crash.

Police said the helicopter had flown from Blackpool Airport, had touched down at two different gas rigs and was on its way to a third when it was lost.

"We regret that we have been informed of fatalities," the company said in a statement. "Centrica is contacting all families connected with its Morecambe Bay gas fields."

Gas was discovered offshore of Morecambe Bay in 1974 and several rigs operate there, extracting the six trillion cubic feet of natural gas beneath the sea floor.

In February 2004, 23 shellfish collectors from China died when they were trapped by the tide on the sand at Morecambe Bay and drowned.