Thirty-two years on from the Piper Alpha disaster, we remember the 167 lives that were tragically taken on July 6th, 1988.
In memory of the lives lost, award- winning Scottish film maker, Lee Hutcheon, created “The Men of Piper Alpha” for the families and loved ones impacted by this day. Lee spent a year making the film in his hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland. His aim was to ensure that all those who lost their lives are never forgotten.
The story of Piper Alpha still has much to teach us over thirty years on from the disaster. Late in the evening of July 6th, 1988, a series of explosions ripped through the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea. Engulfed in fire, most of the oil platform topside modules collapsed into the sea over a few hours. 167 men died and many more were injured and traumatised. Most of the physical evidence sank to the bottom of the North Sea, so the testimony of survivors and witnesses had to be woven together into a coherent story.
Lee kindly answered some questions about the film for the team at OGV Energy.
Why did you decide to make the film?
This is a very personal film to me as I’m from Aberdeen and the city was devastated by the disaster. Everyone seems to know someone that was affected by Piper. As a Scottish filmmaker that was so close to the victims of the disaster, I felt it was my duty to do this and to do it justice so people can never forget.
Do you remember what you were doing at the time of the disaster?
I remember the phones constantly going as everyone was trying to find out what was happening. I remember thunderous roar of choppers flying back and forth as the news slowly begin to filter through about the extent of the disaster.
Did you have any connection to the oil and gas industry at the time?
My grandad was a whaler and was away for months at a time but, when oil struck in the North Sea in 1967, he started work for BP on their platforms.
Did you know anyone on the Piper Alpha or anyone who worked offshore?
I think everyone in Aberdeen, at least, knew someone who was affected by Piper because Aberdeen is not a big town. I have friends who lost their fathers on Piper.
What did you learn when making this film?
In order to make this film, my research was intense. In By the end, I knew every last detail about the catalogue of events that eventually led to 167 men losing their lives. This was the hardest film I’ve ever made as the details were not nice at all, but I had to know everything to do this film properly. There are some details I chose not to include in the film.
Do you keep in touch with any of the survivors and people you met through making this film?
I became friends with the survivors after making the film and some kept in touch. Some have sadly passed since I made the film so I’m forever grateful that they trusted me with their stories to ensure that people can never forget.
What message would you like your film to put across to the public?
I would just like people to learn from the mistakes made here and to ensure that this can never happen again. I would like people to remember these brave men and to ensure that ‘The Men of Piper Alpha’ will never ever be forgotten.
“Lest we forget”
You can watch Lee Hutcheon’s “The Men of Piper Alpha” here on the OGV Energy website. For more on the Piper Alpha disaster, click here: https://www.oilandgasvisionjobs.com/tv/255 to listen to our OGV Energy podcast with survivor Steve Rae.
Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.