Survivor of helicopter crash took his own life years later

Survivor of helicopter crash that killed four people in the North Sea who bravely battled for 30 minutes to save fellow passenger took his own life four years later after suffering PTSD, inquiry hears

  • Samuel Bull was one of 18 passengers on board Super Puma L2 when it crashed 
  • He ‘bravely attempted to resuscitate another passenger’ following the impact
  • Mr Bull died in East Dulwich in December 2017 due to suicide, an inquest heard
  • For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123 

A survivor of a helicopter crash which killed four people in the North Sea took his own life four years later after suffering from PTSD, a fatal accident inquiry heard.

Samuel Bull was one of 18 people on board the Super Puma L2 when it ditched on its approach to Sumburgh Airport, Shetland at around 6.20pm on August 23, 2013.

The offshore fuel analyst ‘bravely attempted to resuscitate another passenger’ following the crash and had been receiving regular psychiatric treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Bull died in East Dulwich, London on December 10, 2017. An inquest held in London later that month ruled his death was suicide.

Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle, who is hearing the inquiry, said he had spoken to Mr Bull’s father and stressed the importance of there being ‘another victim apart from the four that died on the day and his death was plainly directly caused by the accident’.

A survivor of a helicopter crash which killed four people in the North Sea took his own life four years later after suffering from PTSD, a fatal accident inquiry heard. Pictured: A dive vessel involved in the salvage of the Super Puma helicopter

Samuel Bull died in East Dulwich, London on December 10, 2017. An inquest held in London later that month ruled his death was suicide.  Pictured: The scene after the helicopter crash in August 2013

Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Moray; Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness; Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester, Hampshire, died in the crash.

The two crew members and 12 remaining passengers survived the crash, which happened as the helicopter returned from the Borgsten Dolphin support vessel.

The inquiry also heard from Mr Bull’s colleague at the time of the crash, Matthew Bower, who he teamed up with to give CPR to Mr McCrossan who had a heart attack on their life raft after he escaped the downed helicopter.

Asked if his offshore training was helpful in dealing with the crash, Mr Bower, 31, said: ‘It saved my life on that day, yeah.’

The chemist had only flown offshore up to six times before the crash and was asleep until seconds before the aircraft hit the sea.

Giving evidence at the virtual hearing on the second day of the inquiry, he said he woke up around 10 or 15 seconds before the ditching and believed he was experiencing turbulence because he could see Ms Darnley looking panicked.

‘We seemed to drop out of the cloud and I remember seeing the sea was significantly closer than expected. I hadn’t heard anything about coming into land at that point,’ he said.

‘Then it was quite clear that we were falling… I remember falling and I remember seeing sea coming towards us too quickly.

Dive Vessel Bibby Polaris, which was involved in the salvage of a Super Puma helicopter that plunged into the North Sea killing four oil workers, is pictured off the coast of Shetland in August 2013


George Allison, 57, from Winchester, and Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, lost their lives in the crash on August 23

‘We’ve hit the water and immediately it went over.’

He said the helicopter filled up ‘immediately’ with water, his training kicked in and removed the window and got to the surface.

He said he did not use his rebreather as it was ‘convoluted’ but this was not a conscious decision as there was no time.

Once at the surface he deployed his life jacket, saying this was under a minute from him waking up.

He saw people in the water, got on to the upturned helicopter and then a life raft where he tried to save Mr McCrossan’s life.

Mr Bower said Mr McCrossan then lost consciousness and he and Mr Bull spent more than half an hour doing CPR to no response before they were rescued.


Duncan Munro, from Bishop Auckland and Gary McCrossan, from Inverness, were also killed

Agreed written evidence states Mr McCrossan died from a heart attack triggered by the stress of the crash.

Mr Bower has since returned to working offshore and has completed training including simulated ditching, believing the previous ditching training helped save his life.

‘We were flipping lucky,’ he said.

‘If you fall from the sky at any other point it [training] really doesn’t matter because you’re going to die on impact.’

Survivor Paul Sharp, 55, also gave evidence, saying he believed he was going to die inside the downed helicopter before punching a window out to escape.

He said his life jacket only partially inflated and had to be topped up manually, the light and personal locator beacon did not work and criticised the emergency rebreather for being ‘hard to get to’.

Asked if he used it, he said he ‘couldn’t find it’.

An offshore scaffolder at the time, he said he returned offshore once but collapsed after the flight and vowed never to go back on a helicopter.

He suffers from nightmares, anxiety and depression. 

  • For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123, visit a local Samaritans branch or click here for details 

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