A hearse carries the bodies of some of the men who died when a helicopter crashed late Wednesday in the North Sea after they were taken off the Caledonian Victory vessel, pictured rear, at Aberdeen Harbour in Scotland. ((Andrew Milligan/Associated Press))

A day after the bodies of eight victims of a helicopter crash off Scotland's northeast coast were recovered from the sea, officials called off the search for the remaining eight missing people and termed the efforts a recovery operation.

"The grim reality is that the crew of 16 on board has been lost," said Const. Colin Menzies of the local Grampian Police on Thursday.

The Super Puma helicopter was returning to Aberdeen from an oil platform in the North Sea when it crashed off the coast of Peterhead in northeast Scotland Wednesday afternoon. Conditions were calm and sunny at the time.

British Petroleum said the helicopter, carrying 14 oil workers and two crew members, was on its way back from the company's Miller oil field at the time of the crash.

Wednesday's crash was the second such incident in the North Sea this year, both involving the Super Puma. A Super Puma ditched in the North Sea in February, but all 18 people on board were rescued in that incident.

Operator Bond Offshore Helicopters rejected calls for all its Super Pumas to be grounded, saying it had "every confidence" in the helicopter.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said two lifeboats and seven other vessels, including ferries and fishing boats, were searching for the missing people. Experts from the British government's Air Accidents Investigation Branch were travelling to the scene of the crash on Thursday.

Helicopters have been used to ferry workers to and from the oil and gas fields off the Scottish coast since the platforms were first constructed there in the 1970s.

A death toll of 16 would make this Britain's second-deadliest helicopter disaster.

The worst was in 1986 when 45 people died after a Chinook crashed into the sea off the Shetland Islands north of Scotland.

Safety was improved after the Chinook crash, and all offshore workers in the North Sea now have to complete tough training in a crash simulator. All wear survival immersion suits and are equipped with personal beacons and floatation devices.

The Super Puma is fitted with air bags, similar to those in cars, that deploy on contact with the water.

In Newfoundland, 17 people died March 12 when a Sikorsky S-92A helicopter ditched in the Atlantic after declaring a mechanical problem. The chopper was carrying workers to two offshore oil platforms.

The sole survivor of that crash, Robert Decker, 27, was discharged from hospital in St. John's on Tuesday after staying there for two weeks and undergoing surgery to stabilize a fractured vertebra in his spine.

With files from the Associated Press