UPDATE WITH VIDEO: Search called off for swimmer feared drowned after going missing at sea (From Dorset Echo)
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UPDATE WITH VIDEO: Search called off for swimmer feared drowned after going missing at sea
THE search for a young man who went missing while swimming at Durdle Door has been called off.
Coastguards called off the search for the 21-year-old man from Portsmouth just after 11.30am this morning.
Search teams including Lulworth and Wyke coastguard rescue teams and Portland Coastguard helicopter, together with a Navy helicopter had been searching the area around Durdle Door and down to Lulworth Cove and Bat’s Head since early this morning.
The young man had come down for the day from Portsmouth with his two friends, aged 21 and 22. They were swimming yesterday afternoon when the problems began.
His two friends made it back to shore safely. His disappearance sparked a major search and rescue operation on Wednesday evening involving lifeboats, helicopters and coastguard search teams.
The search and rescue mission was called off late last night due to poor visibility.
Coastguard Robert Sansom, Weymouth sector manager, said: "We continued the search this morning at 8am covering 20 miles of coastline where we suspect he might have been. The search has now ended until any further sighting."
The missing man is believed to be a 21-year-old from Portsmouth who had travelled to Durdle Door for the day with two friends, aged 21 and 22.
Mr Sanson added: "The two friends became aware he was in trouble and came ashore after not being able to find him. Then two strangers swam out and to the man but couldn't get him to the shore. They said he was unresponsive at this point."
The two swimmers who went into the water where believed to be in their 30s from the London area.
Below is a photograph of the search on Wednesday evening by James Gale.
Speaking on Wednesday evening when the initial search was called off due to the failing light Portland Coastguard Watch Manager Ros Evans said: “Everyone involved did everything they could to rescue this person but unfortunately this is increasingly looking like a tragic accident.”
The dramatic events followed a drama in the same area a few hours earlier when a man was treated for hypothermia after going swimming. The sea was said to be 'very rough' at the time.
Portland Coastguard was alerted to the second incident about 4pm through a series of 999 calls reporting a man in difficulty while swimming in the sea just west of Durdle Door. Callers reported seeing three people in the water.
A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman said: “The two RNLI lifeboats based at Weymouth were sent with the police helicopter and Wyke and Lulworth Coastguard Rescue Teams.
“They were joined by a Royal Navy helicopter, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, South West Ambulance crews and Dorset Police.
“The Portland Coastguard rescue helicopter, which was on another mission when the call came in, later joined the search. Whilst the rescue units were on their way, a report was received that two other people on the beach went out to help the struggling swimmer. Unfortunately they were unable to recover the swimmer from the water.
“Sadly, the person has not been found despite a detailed search of the area.”
Weymouth RNLI spokesman Ken Francis said the inshore lifeboat was first on the scene, travelling the six-and-a-half miles to Durdle Door in 15 minutes.
He added: “It appeared that two people who had been in the water were safely ashore but there were reports of another person still in the water. This then turned into a search for the reported missing person and Weymouth all-weather lifeboat was also launched to join in the search.
“Several helicopters and the coastguard cliff rescue teams from Weymouth and Lulworth were also called in.
“An intensive search of the beaches and sea around the whole area around Durdle Door was carried out until darkness fell and the search was called off.”
Coastguard helicopter campaigner Roger Macpherson said the incident 'really brings home' how important the service is.
He said: “This sounds like it was a very sad occurrence, but it shows how crucial the helicopter is in Dorset.
“Time can be a real factor in emergencies. You just do not know how long someone is going to survive in the water.”
Portland councillor Tim Munro said: “The rescue helicopter and our lifeboats do a fantastic job.
“They risk their lives saving others. Unfortunately on this occasion it appears they were too late to save this man, how very sad."
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