Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Sunday, 6 July 2008 18:13 UK

Piper Alpha anniversary honoured


Victims of the Piper Alpha disaster are remembered

The 20th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster has been marked with memorial ceremonies both onshore and offshore.

A total of 167 men died in the North Sea platform disaster on 6 July, 1988. There were 61 survivors.

A remembrance service took place at the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen to mark the anniversary.

Following the service about 400 people gathered at the memorial garden dedicated to Piper Alpha victims for an act of remembrance.

Haunting lament

Many of those who attended laid wreaths and floral tributes at the bottom of a bronze statue depicting three oil workers, the names of the victims written on a marble plinth below.

The names of the victims were then read aloud by the Reverend Andrew Jolly, chaplain to the UK oil and gas industry, and the Reverend Fred Coutts, head of spiritual care for NHS Grampian.

A lone piper then played a haunting lament, The Flowers of the Forest, as the crowd stood with their heads bowed, many of them weeping.

A wreath was then laid by First Minister Alex Salmond.

At the church service, Mr Jolly said that the people of Scotland should "hang our heads in shame" if the victims were ever forgotten.

Piper Alpha
Industry safety experts believe lessons have been learned

"There must always be names with faces, stories of sacrifice and of love, devotion and faith, so that what has gone on before does not become just another statistic," he said.

"If we as a community, or as an oil and gas industry, or as a city, or as a country allow that to happen, we should hang our heads in shame.

"Today here in this kirk we will remember them by name, reminding us not just who they are, but who they were and who they will always be to those who knew and loved them."

The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, the Rt Rev Dr Robert Gillies, said: "The Piper Alpha oil disaster cast a deep shadow over the city of Aberdeen and beyond.

"The memory of that horrific tragedy has become acutely focussed in the city's thinking.

"But along with the sadness this will rekindle, there is also the appreciation of the way rescue, medical and pastoral services combined."

A major gas leak just before 2200 BST on the night of the tragedy was followed by fire and a series of explosions on the North Sea platform.

The heat ruptured a gas pipeline from another platform causing another massive explosion and fireball that engulfed Piper Alpha.

Many of the 61 who survived had to jump into the sea far below.

Offshore industry

Twenty years on, Piper Alpha remains the world's worst offshore disaster.

Industry safety experts believe lessons have been learned and that the offshore industry is safer.

BBC Scotland has told the story of the thoughts of survivors, widows, relatives and the industry in the past week in a series of articles on television, online and on radio to mark the 20th anniversary.

A play which pays tribute to the 167 men who died finished on Sunday night.

Lest We Forget was being performed at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen. It charted the lives of four fictional characters affected.

Forever synonymous with tragedy
05 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
'I blamed the world for my loss'
04 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
Safety legacy left by Piper Alpha
04 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
Widows hope deaths not in vain
03 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
'Trying to pick which way to die'
02 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
Piper Alpha play honours victims
30 Jun 08 |  North East/N Isles
Remembering Piper Alpha disaster
06 Jun 08 |  Scotland
Vocal Piper Alpha survivor dies
15 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Piper Alpha remembered
06 Jul 98 |  UK News


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