Service to remember victims of 2002 North Sea helicopter crash to be held at Great Yarmouth Minster

THE lives of 11 men who died off Norfolk's coast in the tragic North Sea helicopter crash will be marked during a special service tomorrow (Sunday).

Great Yarmouth was the centre of the rescue operation after the Sikorsky helicopter plunged 400ft into the water on July 16, 2002 killing the two crewmen and nine oil rig workers on board.

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.

Among the men on board six were from Norfolk, including the pilot, and one from Suffolk. The remaining men came from Scotland, Middlesbrough and Lancashire.

Since the crash Great Yarmouth Minster has held a memorial service to pay respect to the 11 and tomorrow's will mark the tenth anniversary of the tragedy.

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Reverend Chris Terry, team rector, said it was very important to remember the victims.

He added: 'At the time it was obviously quite a traumatic event and I suppose brought to people's mind the dangers of working in the North Sea, which is probably something that's taken for granted.

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'Hopefully a number of people will come along to mark that and to recall the men who lost their lives. We have an opportunity to come together to recall those who died and remember their sacrifice, really for our benefit.'

Air accident investigators said in the months after the chopper went down that a worn rota blade had triggered the crash. Experts said the blade from the main rotor fractured causing the craft to plunge into the sea and giving no hope of survival to those on board.

Petrol giant Shell, for whom three of the men worked for, erected a glass porch in the Minster in memory of the 11 who died. The roof of the porch is shaped like a helicopter rotor blade and painted on it in gold is the name of each of the victims.

Mr Terry said the memorial would play a part in tomorrow's service, which will feature hymns, prayers and a sermon from Reverend Gordon Craig, the chaplain for the UK's offshore gas and oil industry.

Individual candles will also be lit for each of the men.

Mr Terry added that anyone was welcome to the service, which starts at 11am, and family members of some of the victims were expected to attend.

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