Fleetwood RNLI commemorate helicopter tragedy anniversary

Lifeboats News Release

The 10th anniversary of a helicopter crash which cost the lives of seven men has been commemorated by members of the RNLI and family members of the deceased in Fleetwood.

Commemorative monument in memory of the 7 workers and crew who lost their lives, with wreaths from RNLI stations who took part in the operation.

RNLI/Tony Cowell

Commemorative monument

On 27 December 2006, a Dauphin helicopter picking up rig workers off Morecambe Bay, crashed into the sea about 20 miles from Cleveleys. The five rig workers, along with the two pilots, died in the crash.

The RNLI volunteers from Fleetwood, Lytham and Barrow joined the search for survivors with the RAF Search and Rescue helicopter and other rig support vessels. The search lasted nearly 24 hours, but tragically, it was to no avail.

On Tuesday 27 December 2016, a short but poignant service was held at the special monument which was erected near Fleetwood lifeboat station four years ago in memory of the tragedy ten years ago.

Sandra Potton, widow of Blackpool helicopter pilot Steve Potton who died in the crash, was among those attending the service.

Gary Randles, current coxswain of Fleetwood RNLI, was one of the volunteers involved that day.

He said, ‘This was one mission we’ll never forget. We launched at 6.30pm and returned to refuel at 9.30am the next morning. A few of the lads relaunched at 10.30am, until the Coastguard called the search off later that afternoon. They were out there for over 22 hours, in challenging conditions. Most missions have a happy outcome, but sadly this one didn’t.’

UK Coastguard took the decision to call off the search at 4.40pm on December 28 with light fading fast, having found six bodies in the water.

Despite the tragic outcome, Gary and his fellow volunteer lifeboat crew members have been heartened by the thanks from the victim’s families for their tireless rescue efforts.

Gary continues ‘The Potton family and others have done lots of fund raising for the RNLI. It’s been good for the local lifeboat crews to meet up with them again and remember those that were lost. It’s part of our history.’

By a strange twist of fate, Gary now finds himself on the other side of the equation – travelling to work in the Irish Sea gas fields by helicopter.

He said ‘It really brings it home to you.’

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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