The mum of a man who died in a North Sea helicopter disaster has spoken of her emotions as a new lifeboat was named after her son.
Stuart Wood, 27, from Newmachar, was one of 16 people who died when the Super Puma helicopter crashed off the coast of Peterhead on April 1 2009 after a mechanical malfunction.
The new inshore lifeboat, which was named during a ceremony at Blaikies Quay, is called Buoy Woody 85N after Stuart’s nickname and the number of the tragic flight.
Stuart’s mum Audrey – who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the RNLI in the decade since her son’s death – joined more than 200 guests at the naming ceremony on Saturday.
She said: “It has been an extremely emotional day but I’m really overwhelmed just looking at the lasting legacy for Woody now that we have donated the boat to the RNLI.
“The community are able to see where the funds have gone and the new boat is a huge boost.
“We never expected to raise as much money. Our events have been a great success. We now have a boat that will hopefully save lives in the local area.
“To see the nameplate and what it means – buoy for the RNLI, Woody for us and 85N to remember the other men – it was overwhelming.”
Following the disaster, Audrey was shocked to learn that the people manning the boats who made an attempt to save her son’s life were all volunteers.
As a result, and with the help of her family, Audrey looked to raise money for the organisation by holding annual fundraisers, which to date have pulled in a whopping £235,000 – £30,000 of which paid for the new inshore lifeboat.
Audrey told the watching guests how the tragic events of 10 years ago sparked her fundraising spirit.
She said: “The 1st of April 2009 was a beautiful spring day offshore on the Miller Platform – clear blue skies, sea like a mill pond.
“Our son, Stuart, better known as Woody, was flying home; he was meant to be home the week prior but had stayed on to complete a job.
“The helicopter, Flight 85N, boarded and took off as normal for its one-hour flight to Aberdeen.
“But on that beautiful day, tragedy struck. The helicopter, with 16 men on board, plunged into the sea some 12 miles from Peterhead. A full air and sea search was launched, and the team worked day and night until all of our boys were found and brought back to waiting loved ones.
“But there were no survivors. It was only following this tragedy that we as a family realised that the work of the RNLI was voluntary.
“We pledged to raise money for local RNLI stations. In truth, this helped both us and the RNLI as, apart from raising funds, it was also a distraction therapy for us in this lifelong grieving journey of losing our only son.
“Our hope is that this money will help save lives at sea around our coast, so that other families might be spared the pain that we have had to endure.”
Davie Orr, coxswain of Aberdeen Lifeboat, accepted the lifeboat into the station’s care on behalf of the crew.
He said: “The RNLI’s lifeboats are a part of the community.
“They are crewed by volunteers from the community and funded by charitable donations from the community.
“This new Inshore Lifeboat will be lovingly cared for.”