Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 01:03 UK

'Trying to pick which way to die'

As the 20th anniversary approaches of the Piper Alpha disaster, in which 167 men died, survivor Roy Carey, of Irvine, Ayrshire, tells BBC Scotland of his harrowing fight for survival after plunging from the platform into the North Sea.

Roy Carey
Roy Carey survived the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988
Suddenly there was a massive explosion. I turned round towards it and could just see a wall of flame rushing towards us.

You would not have thought flame could travel at that speed.

Your mind is racing. I was trying to dive as cleanly as I could because you are told if you make contact with the water it can be like concrete if you are coming from a good height.

I must have done a reasonable job because I went very deep and I realised I was struggling to get to the surface.

I did not have any bother knowing where the surface was because it was aglow at this time.

I got to the surface, touch of the frying pan and fire story. I was under a grill, the flames were blowing right over the sea.

I was throwing water over my head, trying to prevent it burning, this was when I received about 90% of my burns.

I reached a point where I thought I was not going to make it.


Three survivors of the disaster describe their ordeals

I was trying to decide which way to die, whether to drown or whether to die by the fire.

I decided drowning would possibly be a better way to go, and so I pushed myself on the water and went down a wee bit.

Then it came to mind I had promised my youngest daughter the same type of wedding as I had given my elder daughter and it gave me reason to survive again.

I got back to the surface.

I saw a man with a lifejacket on and I swam towards him, and I realised he was dead, his face was down in the water and he was lifeless.

'Felt guilty'

I didn't want to know who it was, but I did use his lifejacket, I leant against it, I did not take it off him, I just used the buoyancy to give myself a rest and hang on for a while.

Then I heard shouts and it was four or five lads and they were on a part of a lifeboat.

I let go of the lad and swam towards it.

Roy Carey
Mr Carey was badly burned during his escape from the flames

Our first concern was to try and get picked up. We were looking around. Are we ever going to be seen? We were screaming and waving like mad and eventually they spotted us.

You could hear the metal screaming of the rig, as it was getting under stress. You could tell it was in its death throes.

I was badly burned to the head, it required extensive surgery, and the back of my hands were burned off.

You were quite euphoric at that time, because you had survived and you knew a lot of people hadn't.

But you didn't realise how many people hadn't at that time.

Your mind plays tricks with you at times, you maybe see one of them across the road and you have just got to realise it's not them
But you had got through it, we made it.

I did have quite a lot of psychological troubles.

Your thoughts return to the Piper. It was a bad experience for anyone obviously. It's still in your dreams.

I knew most of the people who perished. They were good friends. You knew their lives, their kids' names. It was like losing friends and family.

It was hard to say you had survived, you felt guilty.

Your mind plays tricks with you at times, you maybe see one of them across the road and you have just got to realise it's not them.

I think there must be lessons to be learned, Piper Alpha has resulted in the rigs being a lot safer. I am not saying they are safe by any means, but they are a lot safer.

I am sure those lads who sacrificed their lives that night will appreciate it's safer now, but they should not be forgotten.

Offshore safety review announced
02 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
Piper Alpha play honours victims
30 Jun 08 |  North East/N Isles
Piper Alpha remembered
06 Jul 98 |  UK News


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