New Aberdeen lifeboat named for men lost in helicopter tragedy
Mrs Audrey Wood, mother of Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood, has named Aberdeen’s new RNLI inshore lifeboat ‘Buoy Woody - 85N’ in memory of her son and the other 15 men lost in the tragedy of helicopter flight 85N, ten years ago this month
More than 200 guests attended the ceremony at the city’s Blaikie’s Quay on Saturday 20 April where bands played, speeches were given, the boat was blessed, hymns were sung and, finally, the boat was named in a ceremony which saw it splashed with fine Scotch Whisky donated by the Glen Garioch Distillery – the nearest to Aberdeen Lifeboat Station.
Welcoming guests, Dr Margaret Farquhar CBE, chair of the Aberdeen Branch of the RNLI, noted the presence of so many crewmembers past and present, fundraising volunteers, and other lifeboat supporters, saying: “I’d like to express my thanks to you all for your dedication and support for the RNLI’s lifeboat station here in Aberdeen. In particular, we should also thank the families of our crew, who give them such support.”
Mrs Audrey Wood spoke on behalf of all those who had donated to the Aberdeen Inshore Lifeboat Appeal and handed the boat into the care of the RNLI.
Having led a remarkable fundraising drive for the RNLI – including the granting of some two-thirds of the cost of the new Aberdeen ILB - Mrs Wood had been invited to name the new boat. She spoke movingly of the events ten years ago which had sparked her fund-raising drive:
Audrey Wood said: “The 1st of April 2009 was a beautiful spring day offshore on the Miller Platform: clear blue skies, sea like a mill pond. Our son, Stuart, better known as Woody, was flying home; he was meant to be home the week prior but had stayed on to complete a job.
“The helicopter, Flight 85N, boarded and took off as normal for its one hour flight to Aberdeen.
“But on that beautiful day, tragedy struck. The helicopter, with 16 men on board, plunged into the sea some 12 miles from Peterhead. A full air and sea search was launched, and the team worked day and night until all of our boys were found and brought back to waiting loved ones. But there were no survivors.
“It was only following this tragedy that we as a family realised that the work of the RNLI was voluntary.
“We pledged to raise money for local RNLI stations. In truth, this helped both us and the RNLI as, apart from raising funds, it was also a distraction therapy for us in this lifelong grieving journey of losing our only son.
“Over the past 10 years, we have managed to raise £235,000 - more than we ever dreamed possible. The money has been distributed to local RNLI stations along the North East coastline from Buckie to Aberdeen.
“Our hope is that this money will help save lives at sea around our coast, so that other families might be spared the pain that we have had to endure.”
Davie Orr, coxswain of Aberdeen Lifeboat, accepted the lifeboat into the station’s care on behalf of the crew. He said: “The RNLI’s lifeboats are a part of the community. They are crewed by volunteers from the community and funded by charitable donations from the community.
“Like all Lifeboat stations, here at Aberdeen, we take immense pride in what we do, how we do it, and in our boats. This new Inshore Lifeboat will be lovingly cared for at our station.”
Guests then moved aboard the NorthLink Ferry MV Hrossay for light refreshments before gathering on deck to witness a capability display by the newly-named ‘Buoy Woody - 85N’.
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, in a normal year, 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.