Missing diver search abandoned

Pett Level Rescue boat launching in response to a Mayday call.

The search for a missing diver just off the coast at Fairlight was called off on Sunday October 21, at 5:30pm, after more than six hours of searching by local coastal search and rescue services.

The first alerts started coming through down at the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat during the crew’s Sunday training session. Radio communications from Solent Coastguard began reporting a Mayday from around 10:30am.

The John and Mary Pulfer heads to the search zone

Initially, the volunteer crew at the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat were asked to stand-by. But just before noon, the crew were tasked by Solent Coastguard to launch and assist to search for a missing diver, who had failed to surface from a group dive at a local wreck. The crew were instructed to attend a location approximately eight miles into the Dover Strait, off the Ecclesbourne Glen coastal area.

At 11:54am the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat, The John and Mary Pulfer was launched with three crew members Andy Cramton, Shaun O’Hara and Isaac Dyer on board. They attended the search location along with both Hastings RNLI lifeboats, as well as Eastbourne RNLI lifeboat.

The helicopter team from HM Coastguard Maritime Search and Rescue at Lydd was also scrambled to the location. Other vessels in the area, including local fishing boats and a private boat, also assisted in the search.

Working in conjunction with Solent Coastguards, the Hastings RNLI boats took acting control of the search, with all the vessels coordinating their courses as directed, in order to conduct a parallel search. Along with the aerial search carried out by the Search and Rescue helicopter, this meant that an extensive area could be covered in a safe, concentrated search pattern, in order to try to locate the missing diver.

Base crews in the communications room of the Pett Level base, supporting the boat team.

Back on the shore at the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat base, the launch vehicle team and base crew volunteers monitored communications and carried out procedures relating to a Shout-response, such as alerting the families of the boat crew so they were aware of the situation.

Searches of this type often continue for as long as there is sufficient daylight, so senior crew members also planned for contingencies which could arise. This involved preparing the smaller Tornado boat for launch and having an additional helm, crew members and launch team on stand-by. This meant that if there was any need to take fuel across, facilitate a crew change, or to assist in the search, the second boat and crew would be ready.

In the event, this was not necessary as the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat teams were stood down at around 3pm. The larger craft continued with the search until approximately 5:30pm, when the whole operation was stood down with no plans to continue the search operation into the following day.

At the time of publishing, no further information has been released about the missing diver.


Image Credits: Katherine Crowther PLIRB .


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