LONDON — Britain honored 14 heroes of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster today, including a bank employee who became a human bridge and helped save 20 lives in the worst British sea disaster since World War II.
In an unusual addition to the traditional New Year honors list, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave gallantry awards to 10 Britons and four Belgians for their bravery after the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized off the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on March 6, killing 188 people.
Another 17 people were honored for meritorious service in the aftermath of the disaster, nine of them Belgian citizens.
Bank employee Andrew Parker, who stretched his 6-foot, 3-inch body across a flooded chasm in the darkened hull of the Herald of Free Enterprise, received Britain's highest peacetime civilian award for bravery, the George Medal. His wife and daughter were among the 20 people he helped save.
The George Medal was also awarded posthumously to the ship's headwaiter, Michael Skippen, who died at his post helping people out of the ferry's submerged restaurant.