Search called off for crashed helicopter

The US Coast Guard has called off its search for two people aboard a helicopter that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.

Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said the "search has concluded and the case is closed on the Coast Guard's end". He said the search halted at 4:30 am local time on Thursday.

The search followed a crash on Wednesday on a helicopter in South Timbalier Block 317.

Wood Group confirmed that the helicopter had been recovered, as well as two bodies.

Upstream was awaiting word from Texas-based Westwind Helicopters, which owned the fallen aircraft. That company was due to issue a press release on Thursday afternoon.

Westwind was involved in another helicopter mishap in the Gulf less than two weeks earlier.

A Westwind helicopter had a "hard landing" and fell off a platform located about 45 nautical miles south-east of Marsh Island, Louisiana on 30 May. It fell into the water with six people on board, but the emergency flotation device was activated and the aircraft did not sink.

None of those aboard were injured and all were safely evacuated.

The Coast Guard responded to that incident, but "stood down" just before a crew arrived because the victims had already been rescued, Vega said. He did not have further information on the location of the platform.

On Wednesday, the Westwind helicopter, a Bell model 206-L4 unit, ditched about 60 miles south of Terrebonne Bay, Louisiana, in South Timbalier Block 317.

It was chartered by Wood Group, which said there was a pilot and a mechanic on board. The helicopter was leaving a Renaissance Offshore-owned platform to refuel, Wood Group told Upstream.

Wood Group is the contract operator of the platform. The helicopter had been sent to the platform to pick up a mechanic and to refuel. The mechanic was there to perform routine "maintenance", a Renaissance spokesman said.

He said the helicopter crashed between 150 and 200 yards from the platform.

Crews aboard the platform threw a life raft into the water and watched the helicopter sink, the Coast Guard said.

A representative of Bell Helicopter, which manufactured the ditched craft, told Upstream that many of its models have flotation devices that automatically deploy in the event of a crash.

The 206-L4 model, however, has a manually activated flotation system.

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