A LIFEBOAT tragedy which claimed nine lives has been immortalised with the naming of a road.

The accident happened in 1962, when the George Elmy lifeboat set out into stormy waters off the coast of Seaham, east Durham, to answer a distress call from the fishing boat Economy, which had foundered off Dawdon Colliery.

The crew managed to rescue the stricken seamen, and the George Elmy was heading back to shore when it was capsized by two huge waves 30 yards from the harbour's south pier. All five lifeboatmen and all but one of the five fishermen, including a nine-year-old boy, lost their lives.

In the storms that night, 19 other people were rescued by helicopter.

To commemorate the lifeboat tragedy, which shocked the nation, a cliff top road, overlooking the site of the tragedy, was formally opened yesterday as the George Elmy Lifeboat Way.

The ceremony was attended by Durham County Council chairman Alan Fenwick, a member of the replacement lifeboat crew, Easington District Council chairman Bill Gustard, and One NorthEast board member Phil Hughes.

They were joined by members of the lifeboat station and pupils of Ropery Walk School, Seaham, who suggested the road's name.

Mr Fenwick said the memory of the tragedy lived on in local people's minds.

"The naming of this new road after the George Elmy will ensure that the bravery and sacrifice of the victims live on for future generations," he said.

The road was designed and developed by Durham County Council as part of a £100m investment in Seaham's regeneration.

It was among the flagship projects of the East Durham Task Force's Programme for Action, a multi-agency, multi-million pound scheme to create 10,000 jobs.

This has included relocating the dock warehousing, improving transport links to the A19 and reclaiming more than 13 acres of derelict land.

To protect the 1.35km Lifeboat Way, 16-tonne rocks were shipped from Norway for a 720-metre barrier.

Councillor Bill Gustard said: "The Seaham Regeneration Scheme has required determination, partnership and teamwork - the very qualities you'll find in lifeboatmen and fishermen, so it is a fitting testament to all those who lost their lives."