Tragic Piper Alpha hero is found dead in river

A SURVIVOR and hero of the Piper Alpha disaster, the worst offshore tragedy to hit the North Sea oil and gas industry, has been found drowned.

The body of Gareth Parry-Davies, 59, was pulled from the River Shannon.
The body of Gareth Parry-Davies, 59, was pulled from the River Shannon.

Gareth Parry-Davies, 59, was a diver who was under the platform when the explosion happened on 6 July, 1988, killing 167 men.

His body was pulled from the River Shannon in Limerick, Ireland, on 10 June, and his funeral will take place tomorrow.

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Mr Parry-Davies attributed his survival on the night to “a combination of luck, team-work and a strong desire to live”.

He not only lived, but also helped three others survive the disaster.

But the father-of-two was so affected by the events he witnessed that his life began to unravel while he struggled with depression and substance abuse.

His wife Terry only became aware of her husband’s heroic actions 20 years after the tragedy when they were recounted in a book about Piper Alpha, Fire in the Night, by author Stephen McGinty, a former journalist for The Scotsman.

Mrs Parry-Davies said: “Gareth never spoke about Piper Alpha and nobody knew what he had done until the book came out. I can’t comprehend that somebody could do what he did that night. I wanted his story to be told, but he suffered from survivor’s guilt and drank heavily. Towards the end in the last few years it was like Gareth was on a trail of self-destruction. He became hard to live with, but I always knew why – the problems he suffered were because of Piper Alpha. I have no doubt about that.

“The Gareth that I loved and knew died years ago. Our lives have been defined by the Piper Alpha disaster – it has left a legacy for our children.

“My son remembers how Gareth would take him fishing and cycling before the disaster and afterwards all he knew was his suffering. Gareth wasn’t good at expressing himself and he would become angry and smash things. He never hurt us but his anger would turn inward.”

Mr Parry-Davies was diving below Piper Alpha when he heard a pair of “loud bangs and a flashes of white light”.

Fifty feet above, a missing safety valve caused a gas leak which ignited and exploded through a steel firewall. A flying piece of metal ruptured a pipe, causing another fire. By the time the young diver was retrieved, the platform 110 miles north east of Aberdeen was already well ablaze. Mr Parry-Davies and his fellow divers realised they would have to escape but were unable to reach their lifeboat through the billowing black smoke.

The trio climbed down a rope to get off the platform and lead dozens of others to safety. They were picked up by the crew of the Silver Pit, which the workers feared would be overcome by the intense “wall of heat” created by the platform blazing.

Mr Parry-Davies left the oil industry following the disaster and went on to work in Zaire and Angola in Africa before returning to the UK and moving to Ireland in 2012, where he ran a cleaning company.

The former diver lived in Limerick city centre, next to the river where he was found dead last week. A funeral will be held in tomorrow.