1. ITV Report

Memorial to helicopter crash victims finally unveiled - 33 years after disaster


A memorial to 13 people killed when their helicopter crashed into the North Sea has finally been unveiled - 33 years after the tragedy.

The aircraft had been travelling from a gas rig to Bacton gas terminal in North Norfolk on August 13 1981 when its pilot sent a distress message to report an engine failure.

Moments later, they lost contact and a search and rescue helicopter from RAF Coltishall was scrambled.

Among the 11 passengers and two crew who died in the crash off the coast of Happisburgh was 28-year-old Stephen Harvey.

His parents, Joyce and Paul Harvey, from Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth, have spent the past 33 years campaigning for a permanent memorial to the 13 men who lost their lives.

Today, they attended a special ceremony at St Nicholas' Church in Yarmouth - alongside Stephen's wife Jill - when it was finally unveiled.

The service in Great Yarmouth. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

"You never ever really get over it, but you just have to learn to live with it and there is not a day goes by that I don't think of him, so it's really nice to be able to put this memorial in place."

– Jill Gibling, Stephen's widow.
A helicopter hovers over the crash site in the North Sea in 1981. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

The Westland Wessex operated by Bristow Helicopters was never fully recovered from the crash site.

An Inquest at the time recorded an open verdict stating there was insufficient evidence to determine the exact cause of the crash.

Despite many unanswered questions, Stephen's parents said today was, for them, the end of an era and that they felt great relief that the names of the 13 men who died in the tragedy were finally there for all to see.

Emergency services on hand to help following the crash in 1981. Credit: ITV News Anglia.