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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 14:44 GMT
Services mark ferry disaster
Remembrance services have been held in Northern Ireland and Scotland for the victims of the Princess Victoria ferry tragedy.

Relatives of those killed joined survivors to mark the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the ferry off the County Down coast, killing 133 people.

The disaster claimed the lives of every woman and child on board the ferry from Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in County Antrim. Only 44 people survived.

Larne: Wreaths are laid at disaster memorial
Larne: Wreaths are laid at disaster memorial
More than 200 people gathered at the disaster memorial in Larne on Friday, where a marble plaque was unveiled and wreaths were laid after a religious service.

Many then began a journey by boat to where the ferry sank, off the Copeland Islands for a wreath laying ceremony.

At Stranraer, a commemorative plaque was also unveiled at a service attended by survivors and relatives of those who died.

A plaque was also unveiled at Donaghadee on Friday before members of the town's lifeboat crew took to the water to meet crews from Larne and Portpatrick in Scotland.

The then Donaghadee lifeboat, the Sir Samuel Kelly, rescued most of the 44 survivors.

Severe weather

The Princess Victoria was one of the first roll on-roll off ferries in operation.

It got into difficulties during severe stormy weather after a huge wave crashed through the car deck doors on the North Channel route.

Icy waters flooded through, engulfing the car deck.

At 0945 GMT, two hours after leaving Stranraer, wireless operator David Broadfoot tapped out his first emergency signal.

Princess Victoria
The stern doors buckled and flooded the car deck
In the desperate hours that followed, Broadfoot sent 60 Morse code signals for help right up until his final message at 1358 GMT.

Among those who died were Major Maynard Sinclair, Northern Ireland finance minister and deputy prime minister at Stormont.

Another MP who was on board, Sir Walter Smiles of North Down, also died.

The design of car ferries changed after the disaster.

An inquiry found the owners responsible for not ensuring the stern doors were strong enough to withstand heavy seas.

The wreckage of the Princess Victoria still lies at the bottom of the sea, five miles off the Copeland Islands.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Karen Atkinson:
"This was the worst ferry disaster in British coastal waters"
BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston
"There were tributes from dignitaries, friends and families."
See also:

14 Apr 02 | UK
02 Apr 02 | N Ireland
17 Jan 01 | Europe
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