Page last updated at 07:16 GMT, Friday, 3 April 2009 08:16 UK

'Words are hard to come up with'

Four of the victims of the crash - Richard Menzies, Stuart Wood, David Rae and Vernon Elrick
The bodies of eight of the crash victims have been recovered

By Huw Williams
BBC Scotland reporter

"There is a sense of silence around Aberdeen."

The words of Grampian Police's Colin Menzies, as he tried to explain the impact of Wednesday's helicopter crash in the North Sea.

The fact that so many of the dead - and the presumed dead - are from the city, or the surrounding areas, makes that impact all the greater.

You feel it when you see the flags flying at half-mast outside office buildings.

And when you see the steady stream of people going to the Oil and Gas chapel at St Nicholas Kirk in the city centre to sign the Book of Remembrance.

Nothing can erase the pain that everybody's feeling
Friend of crash victim

Many struggle to put their emotions into words.

One man, who wanted to remain anonymous, told me he was there because a good friend of his had been on board the Super Puma which crashed.

"What you put down is not really everything you feel," he said.

But does it help to have a place to go, and public recognition that others in the city are grieving with you?, I wondered.

"Yes, it has made me feel a bit better. It's brought some comfort," he told me. "But nothing can erase the pain that everybody's feeling."

There's a stained glass window in the chapel which includes the words of the old hymn: "Hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea".

The window also features a helipad in its design.

The Reverend Andrew Jolly is chaplain to the UK offshore industry.


He's spent the day talking to people who've gone to St Nicholas'.

And he's been discussing plans for a memorial service, with civic leaders and business bosses.

He's also been doing a fair few press and media interviews.

I'm sure the journalist who asked him "Have you ever had to deal with anything like this before?" thought it was a really good question.

But, of course, the answer was "Sadly, yes".

The chaplaincy helped people affected by the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988.

Mr Jolly himself was involved in the aftermath of the helicopter crash in Morecambe Bay, at the end of December 2006, in which seven men died.

'This magnitude'

People in Aberdeen ... people with any connection at all to the oil and gas industry ... don't need to be reminded about what Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond called "the price in human life" of extracting riches from the North Sea.

So what do you say to people, at a time like this?

"Words are very hard to come up with," Andrew Jolly says. "Clearly everyone is stunned by an accident of this nature, and of this magnitude."

But, he said, by opening the chapel, people could come and have a moment of private prayer, or even just peaceful solitude.

"The oil and gas industry is a very small family," he added "and we're keeping in our thoughts and prayers those families who've been affected. And those who are still out in the Miller field, and in the other installations which surround the coast of the United Kingdom."

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