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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 March 2007, 14:58 GMT
Service marks Zeebrugge disaster
Capsized Herald of Free Enterprise
The Herald of Free Enterprise capsized outside Zeebrugge
Survivors of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster and victims' families have attended a church service.

Sunday's memorial service at St Mary's Church, in Dover, was held two days before the 20th anniversary on 6 March.

Addressing the congregation, the Rev Nicholas Stacey praised the "selfless work of the crew" who survived.

The lives of 193 passengers and crew were lost when the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry capsized shortly after leaving Zeebrugge for the Kent port.

St Mary's Church has a commemorative stained glass window honouring those lost in the disaster.

'Forgotten heroes'

It also displays an illuminated scroll with the names of the 193 and has become a place of annual pilgrimage for those affected by the tragedy, many of them from Kent.

A candle dedicated to those who died was lit in front of the window during the service.

Mr Stacey, who had helped organise counselling for those involved in the disaster, paid tribute to the "forgotten heroes".

"No group of people suffered more acutely than the 42 members of the 80-strong crew who survived," he said.

"In the blame game that followed [the disaster], the outstanding selfless work of the crew was never fully acknowledged.

Candle dedicated to those who died in the Zeebrugge ferry disaster
A candle dedicated to those who died was lit during the service

"I want to put the record straight. Many of the 313 passengers who were rescued owe their lives to the crew. They were heroes."

A service in Zeebrugge, at St Donaas Church, was also held on Sunday.

The disaster was caused because the bow door of the ferry was left open as the ship left Zeebrugge, allowing water to enter and flood the car deck.

Townsend Thoresen, which later became P&O European Ferries, was severely criticised in a public inquiry report published in 1987.

P&O European Ferries was charged with corporate manslaughter and seven employees were charged with manslaughter, but there were no convictions.

On Tuesday - the actual 20th anniversary of the tragedy - a service will be held at the Dover centre of the British and International Sailors' Society, at which the names of all those who died will be read out.

A memorial quarter peal will also be rung at St Mary's that evening, starting at 1830 GMT, to mark the hour when the roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry capsized.


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