Tyne & Wear

George Elmy lifeboat returns to Seaham after 51 years

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Media captionThe damaged George Elmy was removed from Seaham after the tragedy and was thought to have disappeared

A lifeboat involved in a disaster more than 50 years ago that left nine people dead, has been returned to County Durham being bought at auction.

The George Elmy capsized during a rescue in huge seas off Seaham in November 1962, claiming the lives of five volunteer crew members.

Four of five fishermen who had just been rescued by the vessel also died.

The restored lifeboat has now been taken to Seaham after being spotted for sale on the internet auction site eBay.

A flotilla of RNLI lifeboats from Sunderland, Tynemouth and Hartlepool provided a guard of honour when it sailed back into port, on Sunday.

Formal blessing

Before entering the town's marina, the lifeboat stopped at the site of the capsize for the crew to lay a wreath in memory of those lost 51 years earlier.

Hundreds of people turned up to witness a formal blessing and re-naming ceremony close to where the original one was held almost 63 years ago.

The Liverpool Class lifeboat was removed by the RNLI after the tragedy and was thought to have disappeared entirely.

Image caption A flotilla of lifeboats escorted the George Elmy back to seaham

But in 2009, the vessel was spotted for sale and eventually purchased by the East Durham Heritage Group.

It will now take pride of place in the former Seaham lifeboat station, which has been renovated as part of the development of Seaham's North Dock and now forms part of the East Durham Heritage and Lifeboat Centre.

Brian Salt, of the East Durham Heritage Group, said: "One of our members came across a boat which claimed to be the George Elmy on eBay in 2009.

"After we verified it was the real thing, we managed to trace the person who bought it and raise enough money ourselves and negotiate to buy it.

"It was in a very poor state and had changed hands at least four times since leaving Seaham.

"We have waited a long time, but we are delighted to have her home now."

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