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Mission’s tribute to car carrier disaster victims

MEMORIAL ... Mission to Seafarers chaplain Father Chris Fuller, right, with the plaque that has been unveiled in memory of the Baltic Ace.

MEMORIAL ... Mission to Seafarers chaplain Father Chris Fuller, right, with the plaque that has been unveiled in memory of the Baltic Ace.

A POIGNANT reminder of the 11 crew members who perished when a car carrier sank off the coast of Rotterdam in Belgium is now in place in South Tyneside.

The crew of the Baltic Ace were regular visitors to the Tyne and the Mission to Seafarers in South Shields.

On December 5 last year, it collided with the Cyprus-registered container ship Corvus in the North Sea.

After the collision, the Baltic Ace began taking on water and sank within 15 minutes in shallow water – killing 11 of its 24-person crew.

Now a plaque to include all the names of the men who died has been unveiled in the chapel at the Mill Dam mission by its chaplain, the Reverend Chris Fuller.

It was a particularly poignant ceremony for mission manager Diane Erskine, who was a regular visitor to the vessel when it was in port in the area.

She said: “Last year we had Christmas presents waiting for the crew at the mission, but then the tragedy happened and we never saw them again.

“It was a mainly Polish and Filipino crew, and five of the bodies have never been recovered.

“The Baltic Ace was one of the first vessels I visited about seven years ago and we got to know the crew well.

“I texted phone top-ups to Jun, one of the Filipino crew, on the day it sank. He was one of those who lost his life.

“The tragedy cast a shadow over last Christmas. It just wasn’t the same, and we always knew we wanted to mark their passing in some way.

“The names of all the 11 who died are to be put on the plaque. It’s our way of remembering them.”

Days after the tragedy 12 months ago more than 100 people gathered at the pontoon beside the Customs House in Mill Dam, South Shields, for a service to bless the port and all those who use it.

And one of the most touching moments in the ceremony came when a wreath was laid in memory of the Baltic Ace victims.

The wreck of the vessel remains a threat to the environment and maritime traffic, as it lies in the busy shipping lanes near Rotterdam.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

 

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