The helicopter, operated by CHC Scotia Limited, was making a routine flight at approximately 1840 between the unmanned Millom West gas platform and the unmanned North Morecambe gas platform, 20 miles off the Lancashire coast. A team of offshore employees was returning to the manned South Morecambe platform following a normal shift when the incident occurred.
Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica, said: "We are all deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy and our immediate thoughts are with our colleagues who have been affected and their families.
"Clearly, we will continue to work closely with the emergency services to provide whatever support we can at this difficult time.
"For our employees, who undergo extensive safety and survival training, this would have been a routine flight between platforms. Helicopters have been used in the Morecambe Bay gas field since 1985 when gas production first started and the safety record within our operation is exemplary. Clearly we will work with CHC Scotia, the helicopter operator, and other parties, to ensure that the full cause of this incident is known."
Mr Laidlaw is personally travelling to meet the employees most affected by the incident during today to offer his own support.
The Morecambe Bay gas fields, operated by Centrica, typically have 120-140 people working offshore at any one time, on a two week on / two week off shift system. Helicopter flights are operated from Blackpool airport.