On March 6th 1987, only a mile from the port of Zeebrugge off the coast of Belgium, the Townsend Thoresen ferry ‘The Herald of Free Enterprise’ left port with 459 passengers, 80 crew and around 130 vehicles. The door through which the vehicles are loaded was still open. As a result the ship keeled over and 193 lives were lost. As the ship left the harbour Assistant Bosun Mark Stanley was still asleep. He was supposed to have closed the bow doors, which was the standard procedure. The enquiry report stated:
From the outset Mr. Mark Victor Stanley, who was the assistant bosun, has accepted that it was his duty to close the bow doors at the time of departure from Zeebrugge and that he failed to carry out this duty. Mr. Stanley had opened the bow doors on arrival in Zeebrugge. Thereafter he was engaged in supervising members of the crew in maintenance and cleaning the ship until he was released from work by the bosun, Mr. Ayling. Mr. Stanley then went to his cabin, where he fell asleep and was not awakened by the call “Harbour Stations”, which was given over the Tannoy address system. He remained asleep on his bunk until he was thrown out of it when the HERALD began to capsize. Mr. Stanley has frankly recognised his failure to turn up for duty and he will, no doubt, suffer remorse for a long time to come. If the Company regards it as appropriate or necessary to take disciplinary action against Mr. Stanley it has power to do so under the Code of Conduct for the Merchant Navy. In fairness to Mr. Stanley it is right to record that after the HERALD capsized he found his way out of the ship on to her hull where he set about rescuing passengers trapped inside. He broke a window for access and, when he was scooping the glass away his right forearm was deeply cut. Nevertheless he re-entered the hull and went into the water to assist passengers. He continued until he was overcome by cold and bleeding.
Sometime after this happened I saw an interview with Mark Stanley. In the interview he accepted full responsibility for the accident.
Now, ask yourself, if you were responsible for the deaths of 193 people would you ever be able to enjoy yourself afterwards? Certainly some of the people who had lost loved ones would say that you have no right to enjoy yourself whilst they are still suffering. Were you to begin to enjoy yourself something would immediately stop you. You would feel guilty for being happy.
Even without a legacy of being responsible for multiple deaths many people have a similar feeling of guilt whenever they start to feel happy.
Something in them says they have no right to feel good. Learn to forgive yourself.
By Philip Braham on .