by Sean Clancy
A RETIRED Horsham Unitarian Minister was airlifted from the liner Queen Mary II to hospital in Ireland after suffering head and leg injuries in an on-board accident at sea.
Understood to be in his late ‘eighties, the Reverend Richard Boeke and his wife, Reverend Johanna, who had lived in Horsham for many years, were aboard the ship on November 4th en route to New York before going on to live near their children in Virginia. The Queen Mary, the world’s most prestigious ocean-going liner, had sailed from Southampton and was 60 nautical miles south of Toe Head off the Irish coast when the accident happened.
The Irish Coastguards were alerted and an emergency operation was immediately launched. Rescue Helicopter 117 took off from the port of Waterford, its route to the ship coordinated by a sub-station at Valentia Island off County Kerry.
It was 4.30 in the afternoon in fading light and poor weather when the rescue flight homed in on the great liner and the highly skilled Coastguard team began the difficult and dangerous task of winching the couple up to the hovering helicopter with the Rev. Boeke strapped onto a stretcher.
Despite the dangers and conditions, the airlift was completed successfully and the two Ministers, who had coped bravely with their hair-raising ordeal, were flown to the University Hospital in the southern Ireland coastal city of Cork, where the Rev.Boeke is understood to be now making a steady recovery.
A shocked Mr Patrick Wynne-Jones, the current chairman of Horsham Unitarian Church, said: “This is very distressing news about a Minister of our Church and his wife, Richard and Jope, who we had hoped would have a pleasant and peaceful return to their family. The thoughts and prayers of all our congregation are with them.”