Great Yarmouth service remembers 11 killed in helicopter crash
- Credit: Archant Library
The lives of 11 men who died in a helicopter crash off Great Yarmouth have been remembered in an anniversary service of remembrance.
On July 16 2002 a Sikorsky 76 helicopter plunged 400ft into the sea killing the two crewmen and nine oil platform workers on board after its rotor blade snapped off.
Seven of the men were from Norfolk and Suffolk and the helicopter they were on went down 25 miles of Yarmouth.
On Monday a service of remembrance was held for the men at St Nicholas Minster led by Great Yarmouth port chaplain Rev Peter Paine and Rev Jemma Sanders-Heys.
The service was attended by 40 people and saw candles lit for each of the men that died as their names were read out - Stewart Coggon, Philip Stone, Kevin Taylor, Dennis Kelleher, Angus MacArthur, Geoffrey Bispham, David Graves, Douglas Learwood, Paul Francis, Philip Wade and Philip Dearden.
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Mr Paine, who had been port chaplain for six months when the tragedy happened, said: 'The aircraft suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure and crashed into the sea with the loss of all.'
Among those attending were representatives from the Coastguard, Caister lifeboat station and the police, the mayor of Great Yarmouth Kerry Robinson-Payne, John Ward, chairman of Norfolk County Council,as well as people who had worked with some of the men and the wife and daughter of Geoffrey Bispham.
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The leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Graham Plant also read out a poem which had been written after the disaster by some of the platform's crew, part of which said: 'Honour us by speaking our names. Take us with you by thinking of us in the years to come.'
The service also saw a wreath laid by the mayor in the Shell porch put up in the church after the disaster.
The cause of the crash of the helicopter, which was operated by Bristow Helicopters of Norwich and contracted to Shell, was put down to a manufacturing glitch involving a rotor that was exacerbated by a lighting strike.
The chopper had been on a routine trip from the Clipper platform, a gas rig, to the Santa Fe Monarch gas drilling rig when it went down 25 miles north east of Yarmouth.
Mr Paine said the service of remembrance will be repeated next year.