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Loss of Carol Sandra & North Wind - 7th May 1984

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last updated :

27th October 2005


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Before the RNLI
Station History

Breil NewkOn the morning of Monday 7th May 1984 the fishing coble 'CAROL SANDRA' left Bridlington harbour. It was a bank holiday Monday with fair weather but the wind was freshening and had reached northerly force 7. The sea state was rapidly deteriorating to rough, which was producing waves up to 15 feet in height. The coble with four onboard was going to move their fleets of crab pots off into deeper water to stop them from being smashed by the rough sea. The men onboard were skipper Peter Brigham (aged 29 and Flamborough lifeboat crew member), his father Guy Brigham (aged 62 and Flamborough lifeboat launching crew member), George Gray (aged 19) and Barrie Shilton (aged 48 from Leeds and a friend of the Brighams).

Nobody knows exactly what happened to the 'CAROL SANDRA' or at what time as no one saw the vessel founder and the crew perish. There was no 'mayday' call sent and no flares were fired. The popular belief is that the vessels pot hauler could have pulled her over if a pot had become stuck. The first report that anything was untoward came from a Dutch doctor and his wife, who reported seeing the bow of a boat sticking out of the water and a place known locally as Breil Flats. The initial report came in to Coastguards just before noon. Ironically, a part time Coastguard lookout, only yards away on an outcrop called Breil Newk had been closed some years earlier.

Flamborough's lifeboat the 'WILL AND FANNY KIRBY' launched at 12.45pm. The lifeboat station was less than ¼ of a mile to the north and the lifeboat was on scene within minutes. A search of the immediate area was started and it quickly became apparent that a vessel had been lost from the amount of wreckage in the water and a strong smell of diesel in the air. As the search continued, lifeboats from Bridlington and Filey were called to join in. More and more vessels joined the search as suspicions grew that it was the 'CAROL SANDRA' that had been lost. Amongst the searching vessels were three trawlers and various angling boats from Bridlington. The RAF search and rescue helicopter from Leconfield was also tasked to the incident. Coastguards and a large crowd on onlookers on the cliff tops were also scouring the boiling waters below for any sign of survivors.

May the 7th would be a day when rescue efforts were to be thwarted time and time again. The Flamborough lifeboat coxswain Mr. Bob Major said "We did try… but it seemed it just had to be". During the search the Flamborough lifeboat developed engine problems as the fuel filters became constantly blocked. It was decided that the Bridlington lifeboat would tow the Flamborough lifeboat into Bridlington harbour to make repairs. The Flamborough boat managed to get one engine re-started and the Bridlington boat returned to the search, where they came across more wreckage. With a loud thud the starboard engine lost power and had to be shut down. It was decided then, that with the Filey lifeboat still able to continue the search and with the other vessels in the area both lifeboats would limp back into Bridlington harbour. The Flamborough boat was repaired and the thud that had partially disabled the Bridlington boat was found to be a rib from the ill-fated 'CAROL SANDRA' that had wedged between the propeller and hull. Both Lifeboats quickly returned to the search when news of the 'NORTH WIND III' broke.

The 'NORTH WIND III' had been on an angling trip with five members of the East Midlands Gas fishing party, who were all from Doncaster. They had responded to the appeal for help with the search without hesitating and despite the fact it was cutting into their fishing time. They had said "Don't even study it. There are four people in the water. Let's go and look for them".

The North Wind IIIAbout four hours after the initial call one of the men on the 'NORTH WIND III' had spotted an object in the water. The boat went in to investigate and was hit by a large wave. This washed the five anglers overboard along with all the boats gear. The skipper, Palmer Cockerill asked the helicopter for immediate assistance as one of his engines had also stopped. The boat was put full astern to come alongside the men overboard, but became entangled in it's own gear. The next large wave capsized the vessel leaving the skipper and his son trapped underneath. They had found and air pocket and remained trapped for nearly 20 minutes until the boat was driven ashore at a place know as Newcombe. Driven by the need to do something, some of the local fishermen climbed down the cliff (normally only attempted with ropes) and helped the skipper and his son ashore after they had managed to escape.

The helicopter had immediately responded to the 'NORTH WIND III' call for help. The winchman, Dave Allen had recovered one man from the water and was in the process of landing him on the Filey Lifeboat when he landed heavily. He sustained rib and pelvic injuries and had to be transferred to an ambulance in the car park at North Landing, where he was rushed to Hull Royal Infirmary. The helicopter returned to the scene and one more survivor managed to cling to the winch without a winchman and was landed on the cliff top. The three remaining men disappeared. They were David Bunting (aged 22), Stephen Burton (aged 24) and Charles Priestley (aged 26).

The search for the missing men continued until failing light forced all rescue teams to stop for the night. It started up again at first light the next morning. A large bow section of the 'CAROL SANDRA' was washed up in Silex Bay and the 'NORTH WIND III' completely broke up. The bodies of Barrie Shilton, Stephen Burton and Peter Brigham were eventually recovered. Tragically the others were never found. This was one of the worst fishing disasters off Flamborough in modern times and described as 'that dreadful day'. It left the whole village stunned.

A memorial service was held in the village church on Sunday 27th May. Over 500 mourners attended the service, which was lead by Rev Roland Hirst. In his sermon he recalled how the church had been packed for a thanksgiving service earlier in the year. This was when the lifeboat crew returned safely after the lifeboat had almost capsized in the harbour mouth at Scarborough. On the lifeboat that night was Peter Brigham, skipper of the 'CAROL SANDRA'

The grieving relatives included those of the crew of the 'CAROL SANDRA', relatives of Barrie Shilton who had travelled from Leeds, and coaches from Doncaster brought friends and relatives of the three Doncaster men who where swept away. Relatives and rescuers stood side by side as the Flamborough lifeboat coxswain, Mr Bob Major summed up the heartache of the rescuers efforts on the day. The vicar read a message of sympathy from the Arch Bishop of York, Dr John Habgood. The Methodist minister, Rev Brian Lewis, led the prayers. Canon Oliver Plunkett, priest of Our Lady and St. Peter, Bridlington, also read a lesson. The Right Rev Donald Snelgrove, Bishop of Hull, read the final blessing.

The memorialWreckage from the two boats had been collected and burnt along with the bow section of the 'CAROL SANDRA' where it came ashore in Silex Bay. As part of the Lifeboat Flag Day on the Bank holiday Monday 28th, these ashes were scattered off Breil Newk. The vicar lead a short service and laid two wreaths. The crew paid their respects and mourners watched from the cliff top. A memorial fund, which had been started, had raised over £3,300, which was partly used towards the cost of a permanent memorial in the village. The memorial reads:

Those Who Lost Their Lives
On 7th May 1984 On The Vessels

Erected By The Flamborough Parish Council

Picture of North Wind III © and by kind permission of Hull Daily Mail Publications Ltd.

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Helmsman - Flamborough Lifeboat Station