RNLI thanked again as 15th anniversary of Morecambe Bay helicopter tragedy nears
It is 15 years since a tragic accident in Morecambe Bay saw seven people die after a helicopter carrying rig workers crashed into the sea
As the anniversary of the incident approaches, the widow of one of the men has praised the RNLI for risking their own lives on that fateful day to try and rescue the men in treacherous conditions.
Sandra Potton, whose pilot husband Steve lost his life, has kept in touch with RNLI crew members and met up with them last week to mark the impending milestone and to launch this year’s Christmas appeal for Fleetwood RNLI.
It was on December 27, 2006, that the helicopter crashed 20 miles off Cleveleys on its way back to the Fylde coast from one of the rigs.
An intense rescue mission ensued, involving the RNLI crews of Fleetwood, Lytham and Barrow, but despite their efforts, the men could not be saved.
Sandra said: “Time may have passed, but I’ll never forget the selflessness and commitment of them and the other emergency services.
“I’m really touched that 15 years on they still remember me and all those who sadly passed away during this dreadful incident.
“It’s really humbling to meet up with some of those who helped with the search, so many years on, and wish them all a peaceful Christmas.
“It’s amazing to think these people are ready to respond to their pagers at a moment’s notice, at Christmas or any time of the year. We may never know when we will need their help, so I hope people support their Christmas appeal.”
The volunteers at Fleetwood RNLI had enjoyed a quiet Christmas holiday with their families when their pagers broke their peace.
The crew launched their Tyne class all-weather lifeboat, William Street and searched the area, along with flank RNLI crews from Barrow and Lytham.
Other rescue vessels from the nearby gas field and the RAF search and rescue helicopter joined the search
Despite the volunteers searching the area, in very challenging conditions, for nearly 22 hours, there were, sadly, to be no survivors.
Six bodies were recovered before the search was called off by HM Coastguard.
Fleetwood RNLI volunteers met with Sandra at a specially built memorial on Fleetwood promenade to pay their respects.
Crew member Gary Randles, who was on the call out, said: “It had been a quiet family Christmas, catching up with friends and neighbours and the
last thing we expected was the RNLI pager going off. You know someone is in trouble straight away, so you don’t hesitate for a second and suddenly your Christmas is over.
“When disaster strikes over the Christmas holiday period, there will always be a constant annual reminder for the families affected by the tragedy and whilst most
families celebrate over the festive holiday, others feel the pain and loss of their loved ones.”
To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas