‘You are all in our thoughts’

How The Gazette reported the disaster
How The Gazette reported the disaster
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“Time will not heal all of our visible and invisible scars.”

These were the poignant words uttered by a memorial speaker as a congregation united in their shared grief.

It was a tragedy that caused unimaginable devastation to a small community and 30 years later, the events of the Abbeystead disaster still leave their mark.

Yesterday, scores of people turned up to St Michael’s Parish Church’s Sunday service to pay their respects to those who died as a result of the explosion at an underground water pumping station.

People travelled from outside the parish to attend the special service.

Candles were lit at the church’s Abbeystead memorial, built to honour the 16 people who lost their lives after heading out on May 23, 1984, for a tour of the facility.

Associate priest Reverend Constance Whalley said: “People like to remember in different ways but the service was well attended.

“We obviously mark the anniversary every year but this year we wanted to do something slightly different because it was 30 years.

“It is important we remember those who died as a result of the tragic accident as well as give thanks for the people who survived and those who helped afterwards.”

Several members of the church spoke about the

lasting impact in the community, and a message from the parish of Abbeystead was read out.

It said: “The events of that day had a lasting effect on members of our parish as well as many more from yours. You are all in our thoughts.”

Few people in St Michael’s were unaffected by the tragedy, after a group of 44 people from the village were invited by the North West Water

Authority to view the underground pumping station after residents became concerned about flooding .

But speakers yesterday praised the community spirit shown in the years that followed for helping people through a difficult time.

The names of those who lost their lives were also read out during the service.

The youngest was a boy of 11, Mark Eckersley, who had been on the tour with his parents Tim and Pauline.

Following the service, members of the congregation walked over to the memorial, where a plaque has been put up to remember the dead, and paid their respects.

Among the dead were three officials who worked for the Water Authority. The victims are buried at St Michael’s Church.