Survivors of a helicopter crash that killed four people are expected to give evidence at a fatal accident inquiry (FAI), a court has heard.
The Super Puma was carrying 18 people when it ditched on its approach to Sumburgh, Shetland, in 2013.
A total of 12 passengers and two crew survived the crash, while four people died.
Derek Pyle, sheriff principal of Grampian, Highland and Islands, has decided the inquiry into the crash seven years ago will be held virtually so no further time is lost.
The FAI into the crash had been scheduled for May but was adjourned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The family of one of the victims said they are “dismayed” that video conferencing technology will be used to conduct the inquiry.
Lawyer Alan Rodgers said the relatives of Sarah Darnley, 45, would prefer a “traditional” fatal accident inquiry into the crash.
Ms Darnley, of Elgin, was a passenger on the helicopter. She and fellow passengers Gary McCrossan, 59, of Inverness; Duncan Munro, 46, of Bishop Auckland; and 57-year-old George Allison, Winchester, lost their lives during the incident.
At a preliminary hearing, held virtually yesterday, he said the full inquiry can start on Monday August 31 subject to the availability of Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) inspectors, who are also expected to give evidence.
Martin Richardson QC, representing the Crown, said: “It will be necessary to hear evidence from some of those passengers but I am hopeful that not all.”
Mr Rodgers, who is acting for Ms Darnley’s family, indicated his clients’ unhappiness during the virtual hearing yesterday.
He said they were concerned they would be unable to use the app which will be used to conduct the hearing.
He added: “The family have asked me to register their dismay about the decision to hold the inquiry virtually.
“They would prefer it for a more traditional inquiry to take place in Inverness. They are not blind to the problems caused by the Covid crisis. However, they wish me to record their dismay.”
Ms Darnley and her fellow passengers were offshore workers.
They were onboard a Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma helicopter belonging to CHC Helicopters when it crashed on approaching Sumburgh Airport. The aircraft was flying workers off the Borgsten Dolphin oil platform.
In 2016, a report said flight instruments were “not monitored effectively” by the pilots in the moments leading up to the crash.
The AAIB said a lack of monitoring meant a reduction in air speed was not noticed by the pilots. Attempts to recover control were too late, they said.
The report also said the impact with the water had been “survivable”. It said one of the four victims had been unable to escape, one was incapacitated by a head injury, one drowned before reaching the surface and the other died in the life raft from a chronic heart condition.
Mr Pyle said: “The decision to have this inquiry in this form we was not a particularly easy decision for me to make. I simply express the hope that it will proceed in a satisfactory manner.”
The inquiry is expected to last up to four weeks and Mr Pyle said he could have his decision ready around a month after it finishes.
In response to the Darnley family, whose lawyer said they wanted to register their “dismay” at the decision to hold the inquiry virtually rather than in court, Mr Pyle said: “I express considerable sympathy with what Mr Rodgers has said and I note the dismay that has been recorded.
“I’ve reached a decision having full regard and understanding of the dismay but I’ve had to take into account a whole other series of considerations.”