Tributes paid at service to mark 30 years since RAF Chinook crash

Tributes have been paid to the 29 people killed in an RAF Chinook helicopter crash at a service to mark the 30th anniversary of the disaster.

The helicopter carrying leading security personnel crashed on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula on the west coast of Scotland on June 2 1994.

The aircraft was on its way from RAF Aldergrove near Belfast to a security conference in Inverness when it crashed into a hillside in thick fog.

Family, friends and colleagues of the 29 people who died on June 2 1994 gathered at Southend Parish Church on Sunday where a service to honour their memory was held at 12.30pm.

Chinook Crash Remembrance Ceremony
Services have been held at the memorial cairn in previous years (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Rev Roddy McNidder, who was the parish minister at the time of the crash, delivered the sermon and described the 25 passengers and four crew who died as “extraordinary people who were selflessly devoted to duty in the service of their country”.

Addressing the congregation, he said: “Our service this early afternoon continues our promise that we care.

“This church is here for you and your families and loved ones, to remember, to honour their memory and their service.

“To bring the gift of encouragement, sensitively and graciously, and to hold fast the standards and principles they represented.

“We wish to say lovingly, that in our hearts and prayers and those of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, reaffirmed when it met in the third week of May this year, we will not forget.”

The service was organised by Rev Steven Sass, minister of the Kintyre Parishes, with the support of Rev Colin Bell, senior chaplain to the 38th (Irish) Brigade, part of the British Army.

The incident in 1994 was the worst RAF peacetime disaster and the reasons for the crash remain unclear.

The pilots, flight lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook, were initially accused of gross negligence over the crash.

But a review of the incident in 2011 found the pilots should not have been blamed.

A special act of remembrance is being held at a memorial cairn at the crash site on Sunday afternoon.

Mr McNidder said: “The beautiful and lovingly built cairn, that stands on the Mull in remembrance of the great sadness of the 2 June 1994, honours loved ones, named there, their families and friends.

“Each name inscribed on this cairn and which shines out every time the sun reflects upon it, calls us to remember the unique person whose name is written there, and to acknowledge our memories, experiences and encounters with them, along with the hopes of what might have been over these 30 years, and years still to come.”

Mr McNidder said many people from the local community in Argyll and Bute, including lighthouse keepers and their wives, the local GP and local members of the coastguard were involved in responding to the crash.

He said: “The police, ambulance and fire brigade attended from Campbeltown, with support personnel responding from many other places, both within Argyll and from further afield,” he added.

“Support and compassionate care was provided both in the immediacy of the accident and in the many months to follow to the families and relatives of those who died and also to their colleagues.

“The response from the local parish was unconditional and continues to this day as does the compassion of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.”