Friday, 9 July 2010

The Penlee lifeboat disaster

Just back from Cornwall. It’s hard to visit the county without thinking of the Penlee lifeboat disaster – not the worst Cornish disaster, but perhaps the most poignant.

On December 19, 1981, a coaster, the Union Star, got into difficulties on its maiden voyage off Cornwall’s south coast. In addition to the crew of five, the captain’s wife and two teenage daughters were on board.

As winds gusted to 95 miles an hour, she began being driven onto the rocks. After attempts to rescue those on board by helicopter failed, the Penlee lifeboat was launched into mountainous waves.

Its crew of eight – all volunteers - managed to get four people off the coaster, then said they were going back to try to save the others. No more was heard from her. The Union Star was later found capsized on the rocks, while wreckage from the lifeboat was discovered along the shore. Everyone aboard the two vessels perished.

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