Huge search for missing man called off

Ian Clarke The biggest search ever co-ordinated off the East Anglian coast was today called off after a missing crewman from a ferry was presumed dead.

Ian Clarke

The biggest search ever co-ordinated off the East Anglian coast was today called off after a missing crewman from a ferry was presumed dead.

A major operation involving seven RNLI lifeboats, two search and rescue helicopters and six coastguard teams was launched across a 100-mile stretch of coastline from Lowestoft to Spurn Point in East Yorkshire to try to find a missing crewman who is believed to have fallen overboard.

The alarm was raised at about 5am after the person was confirmed missing on board the roll on roll off ferry, The Pride of Rotterdam, which was on route from Rotterdam to Hull.

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He was last seen at around midnight on Monday and could have fallen in anywhere between Lowestoft and the Humber.

Police are now carrying out an investigation into how he fell in and interviewing other crew members.

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Crews from Wells, Gorleston, Caister, Cromer, Lowestoft, Skegness and Humber joined in the search, which was co-ordinated by Yarmouth coastguards.

Six coastguard teams - Winterton, Cromer, Mundesley, Happisburgh, Cleethorpes and Donna Nook - were also involved, but the search was called off just before lunchtime after it was assumed the man had died.

The operation was the biggest ever organised in terms of lifeboats launched.

The vessel was on passage from Rotterdam to The Humber and the search concentrated on a 60-mile area of sea from East of Cromer to The Humber.

Two helicopters from Wattisham and Leconfield joined in after the mayday was sounded.

Each lifeboat and helicopter was given an area to search along the ferry's route.

The tide meant that the person may have drifted in the sea.

Richard Leeds, operations manager for Cromer lifeboat, said it was “like looking for a needle in a hay stack.”

Yarmouth Coastguard watch manager Peter Wheeler said too much time had past from when the man had gone into the sea.

“If he had been in the sea for 12 hours there is very little chance that he is alive.

“An extensive search has been undertaken many rescuers today involved in this operation. With the sea temperature there is limited survival time in the water at this time of year.”

Second coxswain Robert Smith, who led the search on the Wells Lifeboat said: “The sea temperature was eight degrees Celsius out there. It was very cold, someone in the water could probably only survive for about twenty to thirty minutes.”

Dave Steenvoorden, RNLI Humber coxswain, said: “There has been a phenomenal effort by all the RNLI lifeboat crews and other rescue services.”

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