Page last updated at 01:12 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tragedy remembered 40 years on

TGB lifeboat
The tragedy of the TGB led to the development of self-righting boats

The sacrifice of eight men who died in the Longhope lifeboat disaster 40 years ago, is being remembered.

The lifeboat TGB capsized on 17 March, 1969, after setting out from Hoy in Orkney, to help a cargo ship adrift in a fierce storm.

The next day, it was found floating upside down in the Pentland Firth. No-one survived.

Relatives and some of the current crew attended a commemoration service at Dunnet, Caithness, on Sunday.

On the night of the tragedy, the Liberian-registered Irene had sent out a mayday reporting it was in trouble.

We are a lifeboat community. We always have been and we continue to be
Dr Tony Trickett
Longhope lifeboat

A Force 9 gale, coupled with a spring tide, led to waves 60ft high.

The TGB, a 47ft Watson-class lifeboat constructed of wood, went to its aid in conditions of near-zero visibility.

Radio contact was later lost. The lifeboat is believed to have been overturned by a freak wave, possibly 100ft (30.5m) high.

When the boat was recovered, the bodies of all but one of the crew were inside the hull. The coxwain was still at the helm.

Dr Tony Trickett, operations manager of the Longhope lifeboat, attended the service to remember the tragedy.

Safer designs

He said: "Since 1874 Longhope has been a lifeboat community. It's a seagoing community. There are fishing boats and big traffic going through the Pentland Firth.

"I think the presence of a lifeboat is vital to them and I think it's important that the widows are great supporters of the lifeboat to this day.

"We are a lifeboat community. We always have been and we continue to be."

Former RNLI chief executive Brian Miles said the Longhope disaster and the loss of five lives off Fraserburgh the following year led to research to develop safer lifeboats.

"They did decide then that they would redevelop self-righting lifeboats," he said. "Ever since then all lifeboats are self-righting by design."

It later emerged the Irene was closer to shore than initially reported, and its crew were brought ashore safely.

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