A MEMORIAL to celebrate the lives of seven men killed in a helicopter crash will be erected next month.
In December 2006, a SA365 Dauphin helicopter, which was picking up rig workers off Morecambe Bay, crashed into the Irish Sea, killing everyone on board.
Now, on the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, plans have been unveiled to erect a monument to remember those who died and the brave work of the RNLI who tried to rescue them.
Families of the men, led by Sandra Potton, the wife of helicopter pilot Steve Potton, will unveil the memorial with the names of all those who died at a service on Wednesday February 1 at Fleetwood Lifeboat Station.
It will be followed by a service at the North Euston Hotel on The Esplanade.
The stone will include co-pilot Simon Foddering from Preston– and a mention of the RNLI rescuers.
Sandra Potton, who was behind the idea for a memorial stone, said she was ‘over the moon’ a date had been set.
She said: “Ever since a bench was put up I have wanted a better memorial – one with all the names of the men on it.
“It will be somewhere we can all go to think about the loved ones lost.
“It has taken such a long time to organise, I am so glad we are finally there.”
Captain Potton bravely took control of the doomed helicopter just seconds before the crash, in a bid to save the men on board. But his heroic efforts could not prevent the aircraft hitting the water.
Following the crash, lifeboat crews from Fleetwood and St Annes were both involved in a huge maritime search operation.
Wreckage was recovered by crewmen and brought back to the port.
At an inquest into the tragedy in 2009, a jury recorded a verdict of “accidental death”.
Air Accident Investigation Branch experts found no mechanical fault but said the crew had not had training in a simulator, which could have been beneficial.
Mr Potton, his co-pilot Mr Foddering, 33, from Preston, Leslie Ahmed, 48, from South Shields, Alfred Neasham, 57, from Co Durham, John Shaw, 51, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, Keith Smith, 57, from Stockton-on-Tees, and Robert Warburton, 60, from Heysham, Lancashire, will all be remembered on the stone.
County councillor Andrea Kay, said: “I am so pleased we have got to this point, it is so important these men are remembered.
“We have been battling for a long time to see a memorial erected and now we have a date I am ecstatic.
“I think the location is especially poignant as the Fleetwood RLNI is were the rescue lifeboats launched from.
“And crew members spent more than 24 hours searching for bodies.
“I hope as many wives can make it to the service as possible, it would be lovely for everyone to meet again.
“And anyone else wishing to pay their respects are of course welcome.”
The service will take place at 3pm.