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24 September 2014

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You are in: Kent > History > Local History > Zeebrugge disaster

The Herald of Free Enterprise

The Herald of Free Enterprise

Zeebrugge disaster

On the 6th March, 1987, the Dover based ferry, the Herald of Free Enterprise sailed from Zeebrugge with her bow doors open. That astonishing blunder capsized the ship, cost almost 200 lives and changed countless others.

The Townsend Thoresen roll-on-roll-off passenger ferry capsized just half an hour after leaving the Belgian port bound for Dover with 545 people on board. 193 people died including half of the crew.

The Chief Engineer

Gwyn Prosser has been MP for Dover for the the last 10 years but on March 6th, 1987 he was employed as a Chief Engineer for cross channel ferries.

On the evening of March 6th he sat at his desk preparing for a House of Lords select committee on the subject of "the comparison between the strict safety regime in place on cross channel ferries with the lesser requirements proposed for Channel Tunnel shuttle trains".

In this special documentary he examines the legacy of that fateful night.

Those left behind

Following on from Gwyn's report BBC Radio Kent's John Warnett spoke to some of the people who were directly affected by the disaster.

The Coroners Officer

One man who had to meet the survivors, relatives of the deceased and co-ordinate the inquest of those who had died, was the Coroners Officer.

Bill Maddocks hadn't spoken of the events following the 6th March 1987 but, on the 20th anniversary, spoke to his daughter, BBC Radio Kent's Julie Maddocks.

The people of Dover

Robin Gibson reports on how the people of Dover marked the tragedy and remembered loved ones lost to the sea.

The commemorations

Some of those who were so deeply affected gathered at the Seafarers Centre in Snargate Street in Dover, as they always do on the anniversary itself, to mark the day.

Later they braved force nine winds to walk to the end of the Prince of Wales Pier at the Western Docks, to throw floral tributes into the English Channel which claimed so many lives that day. Listen to Bob Dale's report.

last updated: 07/09/2009 at 11:04
created: 06/03/2007

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