WE will never forget them, that was the poignant message as hundreds of people including police officers past and present, mourners and residents from across the Fylde coast and beyond, gathered at Gynn Square to pay their respects to three colleagues who gave their lives in Blackpool’s biggest ever sea tragedy.
A special ceremony took place to mark 30 years since PCs Colin Morrison, Gordon Connolly and Angela Bradley leapt into freezing water near the square to try to rescue Glaswegian holidaymaker Alistair Anthony.
Mr Anthony, as well as all three officers, perished, in what remains the worst disaster in the history of the resort’s police force.
Chief Supt Richard Debicki of Blackpool Police, said: “That tragic day in 1983 was one of the darkest in the history of Lancashire Constabulary.
“Three officers arrived for duty in the morning but never returned to their families. They died trying to save a man that they did not know, which is the epitome of public service.
“We are very proud of their brave actions and we will always remember them. In spite of their selfless acts, tragically four people lost their lives that day. We also remember a member of the public, Alistair Anthony, who tragically died during the incident. This should serve as poignant reminder of the dangers of the sea, which still continues to claim lives to this day.”
Chief Supt Debicki’s words come as the search continues for Paul Morris, 41, of South Shore, who was swept into the water in the early hours of New Year’s Day, close to South Pier.
The touching service included the reading of names, laying of wreaths, a two-minute silence and tributes from preacher Tom Birch, Chief Supt Debicki and Chief Constable Steve Finnigan.
Mr Finnigan added: “As someone serving in another force at the time, I can vividly remember those tragic events.
“Not only was Lancashire Constabulary touched, but the whole of the police in the UK was.
“For the families in particular of our fallen colleagues, I know it will have meant an awful lot to them for you to turn out today.”
Many former police officers attended the memorial service, including Eddie Blanchard, 60, with wife Jacqui, 54, of Maghull, Liverpool.
He said: “I didn’t know these officers and I worked in another force at the time, but I felt it was right to come today to pay my respects.
“It only feels right we do so. It feels like yesterday when it happened. I can’t believe it has been 30 years.”
Former Blackpool police officer Chris Driver, 53, from Darwen, patrolled the beat from nearby Warbreck Hill Road going north towards Red Bank Road, North Shore, in 1983.
He added: “It’s quite a sombre and an emotional day for everyone.
“It is important we remember these officers and never forget what they did.”