Survivors ask why me?
That was a question which many people
asked after the tragedy. Not only why did it happen, but why did
certain people die and others survive?
In some cases, crew members had
changed shifts. Those who had taken a day off and were replaced by
others were left with huge feelings of guilt.
A Dover lorry driver was asked to go
on a sudden trip to Belgium by his employer.
"Why him or her, and not me?"
Others were perplexed as to why people
who were known to be strong swimmers had drowned, and others who
could not swim had survived.
Wing Commander Ian Hill - one of the
world's leading experts in major crash investigations - said his
advice to anyone who might find themselves in cold water was:
"Float, don't swim.
"Someone who is thin has a very real
problem. It is the thickness of fat that acts as insulation.
"The natural reaction is to swim, but
you are more likely to survive if you just try to float. The water
takes away the heat from your skin.
"If you exercise, you increase the
heat in your muscles and you will lose more heat."
Hypothermia, he said, caused pain and
discomfort worse than cramp, a tingling and numbness in the fingers
and a loss of co-ordination, leading to mistakes being made.
"People are unable to get themselves
out of a predicament because they do the wrong things. It is not
uncommon for them to take their clothes off. The ability to think
Experiments in a swimming pool with
the water at four degrees centigrade -the temperature of the sea
water that night - had resulted in some proficient swimmers getting
into difficulties and sinking within one or two minutes.
A man told how his wife and daughter
were washed away in the water, but came up again together and clung
to some furniture. He heard his wife say: "I don't think I can hold
on much longer."
He made his way towards them and
forced his body up through the tables and chairs to reach her. But
he fell unconscious. He survived and woke up in hospital to be told
his wife had died.
Coroner Richard Sturt said it was a
Herculean task to hold on to someone when you were drowning.
"You made heroic efforts to save her,"
"I failed," sobbed the man.