A former policeman has reflected on the day he watched a ship run aground at Seaton Carew - and praised the efforts of all the services who responded.
It’s 33 years since the Dutch freighter Anne Roossendaal was left grounded on the Longscar Rocks.
It was high winds. They must have been force 9. The waves were over 30ft high, there was white water, rain and sleet.Ralph Bantoft
Ralph Bantoft remembers it well because he was called to the scene in November 1985. He was an acting Sgt at the time and remembered that he and an inspector arrived to find the ship struggling in waves which reached 30ft to 40ft high.
“The ship was still stern on. We were there when it hit the rocks,” said Ralph who stayed at the scene after the inspector went back to the office.
He remembered how severe the weather was, and recalled he had only seen it like that one other time when the Seaham lifeboat was lost decades earlier.
Describing the 1985 conditions, he said: “It was high winds. They must have been force 9. The waves were over 30ft high, there was white water, rain and sleet.”
For two to three hours, Ralph stayed there in case matters got worse. If they did, he would have had to have phoned for more help.
But it never became necessary and one overriding memory was the incredible efforts of everyone who came to the Anne’s aid, said Ralph.
A lifeboat and helicopter were on the scene and performed heroics.
“Everyone involved should have got a medal,” said Ralph.
He rmembered how the helicopter was kept perfectly steady in the storm force conditions. “The pilot displayed great skill in hovering 30ft above the boat.”
The Anne had been anchored off Hartlepool, waiting to deliver petroleum coke, when she was swept onto the rocks during a storm.
Her crew was successfully taken to safety by the lifeboat - all except the captain Hubertus Rademakers. No-one was hurt during the drama.
The captain never left his ship (which was named after his wife Anne) other than for one brief journey into Hartlepool to thank schoolchildren who had backed him all the way
In the days which followed, sightseers galore came to take a look at the unexpected coastline attraction. There were queues of cars, such was the interest in the 1,486 tonne coke carrying cargo ship.
Salvage attempts continued for two weeks and on one occasion, a tug tried to pull the ship free using a 10ins thick rope only for the line to snap twice. The roads to Seaton were at a standstill as tourists flocked to see the Anne. It all ended on November 27 when Anne was eventually refloated at high tide and taken to Sunderland.
But Ralph’s abiding memories are of everyone who came to the aid of the Anne on that memorable first day when she was grounded.
He added; “I would like to shake the hand of that helicopter pilot.”
If anyone can shed more light on who it was, get in touch and tell us more.