THE role a local lifeboat played in the major search following the devastating RAF Tornado crash was revealed in more detail today (Thursday) as the names of the victims were revealed.
In the House of Commons yesterday, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond named the three men who died in the mid-air accident over the Moray Firth.
They were Bangor-born Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole (28) who lost his fight for life in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, after being airlifted from the scene.
Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey, (35) from Nottingham and Flight Lieutentant Adam Sanders, (27) are also feared dead and efforts are continuing to recover their bodies.
The sole survivor of the accident, who has not been named, remains in a serious but stable condition in Raigmore.
The Invergordon lifeboat swung into action at 1.45pm on Tuesday after the high-speed jets collided in thick fog on Tuesday, about 15 miles south of Wick in the Beatrice oilfield.
Leaving the Cromarty Firth, the vessel travelled north for about 25 miles to join lifeboats from Wick and Buckie in the search.
On arrival, the crew discovered that weather conditions at the scene had deteriorated, with a swell running and thick fog making visibility poor.
A search pattern of the area was carried out as directed by the Coastguard, and the lifeboat helped recover wreckage from the surface and landed it on the Buckie lifeboat.
They were stood down and returned to their base at about 9.30pm after the search was called off due to the poor visibility.
The planes from 15 (Reserve) Sqd at RAF Lossiemouth, in Moray, were on a training exercise when they collided.
RAF Lossiemouth station commander, Gp Capt Ian Gale, said: “Due to extremely poor weather conditions in the area, the RAF Coastguard have made a joint decision not to resume search and rescue operations.
“The operation will be resumed as a recovery operation as soon as possible, but we must be realistic.
“Given the length of time that has elapsed since the accident, there is no expectation of recovering missing personnel alive.”
The RAF ensign at the entrance to the Lossiemouth base has been lowered.
Mr Hammond told the Commons: “I am sure the House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the crew who were involved in the Tornado GR4 aircraft incident on Tuesday: Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole who was killed, and Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey and Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders who are still missing and must be presumed dead.
“My thoughts — and, I am sure, those of the entire House — are with their loved ones at this difficult time, and with the fourth member of the squadron involved in the incident, who is currently in a serious but stable condition in hospital.”