The Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy today welcomed the relatives of 42 French Nationals who died on 8th January 1979 when an oil tanker exploded at the Whiddy Island Oil Terminal in Bantry Bay. The catastrophic incident resulted in the tragic loss of 50 lives, including 42 French Natonals, 7 Irish Nationals and a British national. The loss of life was sadly later increased to 51 when a Dutch diver died while taking part in the salvage operation. The families of the deceased were invited to Bantry for a special commemoration event to mark the 40th anniversary of their death in Bantry Bay.
Family and friends of the victims were joined at the event by Mayor Murphy, His Excellency Stéphane Crouzat Ambassador to French Republic, His Excellency Kevin Vickers Ambassador to Canada and Honorary Consul in Ireland to Finland Mr. Conor Doyle. Maritime community leaders from around the world, representatives from the Irish Navy, An Garda Siochana, the RNLI, the Irish Coast Guard, Total Oil SA; Chevron (Gulf Oil) and Lloyd’s of London were also in attendance.
Mayor Murphy noted that this memorial allowed families and friends an opportunity to publicly remember those lost during this terrible tragedy adding, “The lessons learnt following this tragic incident including the importance, and promotion, of a regulated health and safety work environment and adherence to best practice should be continuously revisited to ensure protection for workers, the public and our maritime environment.”
Mayor Murphy hopes that the 40th anniversary memorial will serve as a positive celebration of the lives of those who were lost and comfort family and friends affected by the sad events of 8th January 1979.
A mass in memory of the 51 was held in St Finbarr’s Church, Bantry followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Abbey Cemetery with a special ceremony for family members on Whiddy’s off-shore jetty and flowers being scattered into Bantry bay in remembrance of those lost.