VIDEO: 999 heroes tribute defies the elements

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Tested by rain, wind and cold it might have been easy for those attending the opening of the blue lights monument to feel sorry for themselves.

But despite the elements, the 160 people who turned out for the unveiling of the memorial last night stood with steely with reserve, to pay their respects to emergency services – those people, past and present, who each day, without question or hesitation, face situations far harder than a miserable June evening.

Vice Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire Col Alan Jolley cuts the ribbon at the monument near Gynn Square, Blackpool.

Vice Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire Col Alan Jolley cuts the ribbon at the monument near Gynn Square, Blackpool.

Ambulance, coastguard, fire and police crews, the four emergency services, came together for the official opening of the monument – four 6ft high figures – at the Sunken Gardens near Gynn Square, after years of hard work to realise organiser Dana Gledhill’s vision.

She said: “The fact so many people endured the dreadful conditions is an indication of how much public goodwill there is towards the emergency services’ endeavours.”

As the ribbon was cut, Poulton Band struck up with the hymn Abide With Me – prayers were said and tears were shed.

Retired police officer Peter Weller, 62, who worked with three officers who lost their lives in the sea off Blackpool in 1983, the tragedy which sparked plans for the memorial, said the event was “very moving”.

Poulton Brass Band entertains the crowd.

Poulton Brass Band entertains the crowd.

He added: “If people lay down their lives it’s important to remember them.”

Organisers said the monument is intended as much to stand for the ambulance, coastguard, fire and police crews serving the public day to day. Dave Rigby, sector manager at North West Ambulance, said: “This is for all those who continue to serve, to say thank you.”

Sean Hennessy, service delivery manager at Blackpool Fire Station, said: “This shows the community of the services working together.”

Police Constable Robin Hardiman added: “We’ve achieved something quite unique in that it’s a monument for all services.”

And the event sealed coastguard staff as the fourth emergency service.

Chris Turner, sector manager for the Coastguard, said: “We’re really pleased to get the recognition as an emergency service, it’s a great honour.”

Mrs Gledhill intends to continue to work to honour the services, now turning her attentions to revamping the gardens at North Promenade.

Officers’ deaths will never be forgotten

The location of the monument overlooks the seafront where three police officers, Colin Morrison, Gordon Connolly and Angela Bradley, drowned in 1983 while trying to save the life of a holidaymaker – the worst disaster in the history of the resort’s police force.

A major air and beach search was launched for the three officers who were trying to save Alistair Anthony, who had gone into the sea to rescue his dog.

This January marked the 30th anniversary of the tragedy.

At a special ceremony to mark it, Chief Supt Richard Debicki of Blackpool Police said: “We are very proud of their brave actions and we will always remember them.”

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