Shane Gorman was just 18-years-old when his father was killed on Piper Alpha in the North Sea. He last saw his father Dave when he dropped him at the train station the day before he went offshore. Now a health and safety inspector just like his father was, Shane shares his story of how that day and the events in the aftermath of the biggest disaster in the North Sea’s history unfolded.
Almost three decades after the worst disaster in the North Sea’s history, father-of-two Shane Gorman has followed in his own dad’s footsteps challenging safety offshore.
Now aged 46, he was just 18 and at the beginning of his basic training in the army, when his father Dave Gorman was killed.
After a family gathering on the Saturday, he was dropped off by his dad at the train station to head off to Darlington.
His dad would return to work on Piper Alpha on the Monday morning.
The first he heard of what had happened was when his commanding officer came to tell him of the emerging reports.
Shane said: “I didn’t really think anything of it initially, because with my dad’s role he was involved in incidents offshore. That would have been on the Thursday, I didn’t really think anything of it until the Friday when my commanding officer said I needed to go home.
“I got taken to Darlington train station and I went into the shop to buy a coke and a mars bar and I saw the newspapers with this image of twisted metal sticking out of the North Sea – and I just remember thinking ‘oh dear, that’s the end of it’ so of course, I was really emotional and I was comforted on the train by two ladies I never saw again.
“When I got back to the house there was lots of press and the phone was constantly ringing. The place was full of people, neighbours, friends, trying to make sense of it all. I didn’t know for sure what had happened. I think we felt detached from it all. It was all going on around you. The emergence of information was very limited, it was more you trying to get information.
“Now when I look back, it was just unbelievable. At 18, you can’t understand what’s going on.”
With little information coming through, Shane returned to training in Darlington. He said as the days wore on, it became clear there would be no more survivors.
“My dad was never found – that was the other thing- still to this day I have never had closure. Even though his name is on the memorial….all we got back was a bank card and £6 that was in his locker.
“As the days went on it became clear no one was going to be found alive. The last time he was seen he was holding a door open on the accommodation block,” he added.
Eyewitness reports which emerged after revealed Dave was last seen lying on the floor in one of the doorways of the accommodation block, holding the door open for co-workers trying to get through.
He was identified by eyewitnesses by the logo on the back of his uniform for the company he worked with, London Bridge Engineering.
Shane added: ““He was helping others which was just like him – that’s what he was about – helping people and his family.
“The place was full of smoke and he was lying on the ground and letting people go through the door.”
On the 28th anniversary of Piper Alpha, Shane will be spending time with his family on holiday.
But it is these moments, where he spend time with his own children, when he says the reminder of his father’s absence becomes more prominent.
He said:“I go to Aberdeen sometimes and I also try and make sure my children understand what’s happening. But they’re a bit young to explain everything and safety has changed and moved on since Piper Alpha and it’s not the same offshore as it was.
“It’s normally a quiet day, it’s times likes these when I go on holiday where it makes me a bit more sad.
“I now have children and I think it makes it resonate more what they’re missing out on.
“One of my sons is really mechanical and my dad would have loved that and they would have got on really well. It’s a shame, it’s really sad.”
Read Shane’s opinion piece on safety offshore and the impact of Piper Alpha here.