AN inquiry has found that a helicopter crash that killed a Droitwich man was "avoidable".

On April 1 2009, a Eurocopter Super Puma plunged into the water off the Aberdeenshire coast, killing 14 oil workers and two crew members, including Worcestershire co-pilot Richard Menzies.

Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle, leading a six-week fatal accident inquiry which started on January 6 this year, found that the crash, which saw the helicopter dive into the water and lose its rotor blades, might have been avoided if several failures by Bond Offshore, the helicopter operator, had not occurred.

These included failing to perform a task from the aircraft maintenance manual on March 25 2009 after a metal particle, which was not identified, was discovered on the helicopter's epicyclic chip detector, which "would have resulted in the removal of the epicyclic module and an examination of the magnets on the separator plates", he said.

Bond also failed to ensure that communications with the manufacturer Eurocopter were done according to procedure, resulting in "misunderstandings arose between the parties."

But an earlier Air Accident Investigation Branch probe found that the aircraft suffered a "catastrophic failure" of its main rotor gearbox not due to the maintenance by Bond.

A statement from Bond Offshore said: "Although Sheriff Principal Pyle has indicated that spalling was, on balance, the most likely reason for the catastrophic gearbox failure which caused the accident - a view not shared by the independent Air Accidents Investigation Branch - he did not find that this was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

"Additionally, he determined that even if we had followed the correct procedure it is by no means certain that the gearbox would have been removed, as there may not have been sufficient evidence of particles to warrant its removal."