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Memorial at Sumburgh for helicopter crash victims

Over 100 people gathered to remember the four people who died in last year's tragic accident. Photo: Malcolm Younger

SURVIVORS of last year’s tragic helicopter crash just south of Sumburgh have paid tribute to the Shetland community following a dedication service marking the incident’s first anniversary.

Four people were killed when the Super Puma helicopter they were travelling in ditched in the sea around two miles south of Fitful Head on 23 August 2013.

Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester, all lost their lives.

A poignant scene as wreaths are laid at sea in the area where the helicopter ditched 12 months ago. Photo courtesy of RNLI

The incident prompted widespread concerns about helicopter safety within the offshore oil industry.

Five survivors of the tragic accident were among over 100 people in attendance at the dedication service on Saturday afternoon, along with representatives of the local emergency services and Shetland Islands Council.

A short statement issued on behalf of the survivors read: “We are all here to pay our respects to those who lost their lives that night.

“We are grateful to have the chance to meet and thank the brave crew members who helped us.

“The whole Shetland community rallied around us in a time of need and we would like to express our deep gratitude to so many people – coastguard, RNLI, hospital staff, police, workers at Sumburgh Airport, Red Cross – for everything.”

The short service was held at the airport’s memorial site, which is dedicated to those who have lost their lives in aircraft accidents in Shetland over the past three decades. It was conducted by the Fishermen’s Mission’s superintendent Aubrey Jamieson.

A dedication plaque with the names of those who died was unveiled, while a wreath was placed in the sea at the accident site by the airport’s fire service staff from their fast rescue boat. Search and rescue helicopters carried out a fly past as the wreath was laid.

Jamieson told BBC Radio Shetland: “I think a year on is probably one of the hardest anniversaries that anybody in grief, or following a tragedy like this, will ever have to face, so I think it’s very important that it’s been marked in this way.”

The service was conducted by Fishermen's Mission superintendent Aubrey Jamieson. Photo: Malcolm Younger