Wife scattered in North Sea to be with husband who died in helicopter crash

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifebo

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifeboat from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter Bob Phillips' former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

A Wymondham woman's ashes were scattered in the North Sea on the anniversary of the helicopter crash that took her husband's life.

Margaret Eke, formerly Margaret Phillips, died in December 2020.

Her family decided to scatter her ashes into the North Sea, so she could be reunited with her husband, Bob Phillips, who was one of thirteen people on board the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash.

RAF rescue helicopter and ambulances at the scene of the 1981 Wessex 60 crash.

RAF rescue helicopter and ambulances at the scene of the 1981 Wessex 60 crash. - Credit: Archant

Caister Lifeboat assisted the family, by taking them aboard the Bernard Matthews II and visiting the area the helicopter crash occurred.

Carlie Phillips, Margaret and Bob's granddaughter, said: "I have mixed emotions today.

"For us, it is about scattering Nan so she can be with Granddad again."

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, at Caister Life

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, at Caister Lifeboat Station before they head out to scatter his former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. Also pictured with a wreath is James McClintock, deputy chief pilot at Bristow Helicopters. - Credit: Danielle Booden


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Ms Phillips said she was overwhelmed by the response and thanked Caister Lifeboat for helping the Phillips family with their wishes.

Ms Phillips added: "It is touching that they haven't been forgotten."

Morris Eke, second husband to Margaret Eke, watching from the beach as friends and family head out t

Morris Eke, second husband to Margaret Eke, watching from the beach as friends and family head out to sea from Caister Lifeboat Station to spread her ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

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Margaret and Bob's son, Steve Phillips, said: "It's unbelievable to be out here with the girls.

"We come down to Yarmouth every 13 August

"Today is very special to me."

Steven Phillips, son of Bob Phillips who was one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, speaki

Steven Phillips, son of Bob Phillips who was one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk at Caister Lifeboat station before heading out to scatter his mum's ashes at sea. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The Phillips family lost Margaret just before Christmas 2020.

"It's been so hard, but now Mum and Dad can be put together," Mr Phillips added.

Mr Philips thanked Caister Lifeboat for their help, as well as Yarmouth Minster, for the memorial which was erected in 2014. 

James McClintock, deputy chief pilot at Bristow Helicopters Norwich, was representing the operator of the aircraft which crashed in 1981.

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, heading out on

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, heading out on a lifeboat from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter Bob Phillips' former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

"The memorial service was very poignant and it was an honour to be attending today," Mr McClintock said.

"I would like to offer my condolences to all families affected by the crash."

Mr McClintock laid a wreath for the lives lost in the crash, and the Phillips family dropped roses into the sea to pay tribute to Margaret and Bob. 

Caister Lifeboat coxswain Guy Gibson scattered Margaret's ashes and Paul Garrod, chairman and crew member, read a eulogy for those onboard and watching on land.

Paul Garrod, chairman and crew member at Caister Lifeboat.

Paul Garrod, chairman and crew member at Caister Lifeboat. - Credit: James Weeds

Mr Garrod said of the memorial: "It was a lovely ceremony.

"We were more than happy to do it for the family and to remember the 13 lives that were lost on that tragic day.

"It was a very sad day, but also a lovely one."

Mr Garrod paid his respects to Margaret, and the 13 lives lost in the helicopter crash.

The Bernard Matthews II in the North Sea.

The Bernard Matthews II in the North Sea. - Credit: James Weeds

Eleven Amoco gas workers, a pilot and cabin attendant were being transported from the Leman gas field on the 'bus service' to the gas terminal at Bacton just after 3.40pm.

Take-off was no cause for concern, and it was only after captain Basil 'Ben' Breach sent a distress message reporting engine failure that the alarm was raised. His last words were "ditching, engine failure".

At 4.30pm, the helicopter, the Whisky India, plunged 1,500 ft into the North Sea.

Wreckage was spotted off the coast of Happisburgh – and it quickly became evident there were no survivors.

The men who died in the crash were:

  • Bob Phillips, of Wymondham
  • Adrian Amis, of Caister-on-Sea
  • Stephen Harvey, of Thurton
  • Douglas Browne, of Norwich
  • Basil Breach, of Great Yarmouth
  • Ian Cullen, of North Walsham
  • James Faircloth, of North Walsham
  • Barry Waland, of Dereham
  • Gordon Errington,
  • Brian Nalton
  • Anthony Green
  • Peter Lawrence
  • Thomas Smith

Matt Rhodes, director of UK and Turkmenistan Oil and Gas at Bristow, said: "It is important that we remember colleagues and passengers lost in the course of their duties, and offer our deepest condolences to their families and friends.

"Our team at Norwich were humbled to be invited to participate, to pay their respects and to have the opportunity to lay a wreath."

Caister Lifeboat is a completely independent service and they rely on donations to maintain operations.

More information and updates of their events can be found on their Facebook page.

The Caister Lifeboat Crew involved in the memorial were:

  • Guy Gibson, coxswain
  • Paul Garrod, chair and crew
  • Laurence Billington, crew
  • Zane Billington, tractor driver
  • Andrew Turner, crew
  • Owen Nutt, crew
  • Tommy Williams, tractor driver and crew

Family members attending the memorial were:

  • Carlie Phillips
  • Steve Phillips
  • Sue Harvey
  • Morris Eke
  • Stephanie Gilding
  • Wayne Gilding
  • Jade Phillips
  • Fred Squires
Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifebo

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifeboat from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter Bob Phillips' former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifebo

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifeboat from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter Bob Phillips' former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Caister Lifeboat Station. Picture: Danielle Booden

Caister Lifeboat Station - Credit: Danielle Booden

The boat that friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, w

The boat that friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, will be heading out on from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter his former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, heading out on

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, heading out on a lifeboat from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter Bob Phillips' former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, heading out on

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, heading out on a lifeboat from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter Bob Phillips' former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifebo

Friends and family of Bob Phillips, one of the 1981 Wessex helicopter crash victims, out on a lifeboat from Caister Lifeboat Station to scatter Bob Phillips' former wife, Margaret Eke's, ashes. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The Phillips family on board the Bernard Matthews II.

The Phillips family on board the Bernard Matthews II. - Credit: James Weeds

James McClintock, deputy chief pilot at Bristow Helicopters Norwich.

James James McClintock, deputy chief pilot at Bristow Helicopters Norwich, was representing the operator of the aircraft which crashed in 1981., deputy - Credit: James Weeds

The Bernard Matthews II in the North Sea.

The Bernard Matthews II in the North Sea. - Credit: James Weeds

Steven Phillips on board the Bernard Matthews II.

Steven Phillips on board the Bernard Matthews II. - Credit: James Weeds

The Phillips family on board the Bernard Matthews II.

The Phillips family on board the Bernard Matthews II. - Credit: James Weeds

The North Sea from the Bernard Matthews II.

The North Sea from the Bernard Matthews II. - Credit: James Weeds

Caister Lifeboat's rescue vessel from the Bernard Matthews II>

Caister Lifeboat's rescue vessel from the Bernard Matthews II> - Credit: James Weeds

Paul Garrod, Carlie Phillips and Steven Phillips.

Paul Garrod, Carlie Phillips and Steven Phillips. - Credit: James Weeds


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