Herald of Free Enterprise – 25 years on

By Evie Purves

It was one of the worst maritime tragedies involving a British ship since 1919. This week is the 25th Anniversary of the catastrophic events of The Herald of Free Enterprise, which capsized and sunk within just minutes of leaving the Belgium port on its way to Dover in 1987.

A total of 193 died in the disaster, including crew, most from hyperthermia due to the bitter 3 degree temperature of the water pouring in. The whole disaster unfolded in just 90 seconds. The ship capsized after water began to enter the car deck due to the bow doors being left wide open.

Today, the survivors of the disaster pay tribute to those fellow passengers who lost their lives on this tragic day. Some still struggle to move on from the painful memories which haunt them everyday. Simon Osborne, a survivor of the capsizing says “it was a scene of unbelievable terror,” and adds “I thought that I was going to perish there in the ship”. Mr Osborne is just one of the many survivors still struggling to come to terms with the loss of his friends.

Whilst this day will always be one of great sadness and distress to many, it is also a day to commemorate those heroes who gave up their own lives to save others. The New Year Honours list included more than 30 people who died saving others in the disaster. An estimated 350 people were rescued. The George Medal was awarded to Andrew Parker, who gave his life by forming a human bridge for others to cross to get to safety.

Since the accident several improvements to the design of this type of vessel have been made. But this will never bring back those who lost their lives on this tragic day, 25 years ago.


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