A PENSIONER has died while diving on a wreck in Lyme Bay.

Dive vessel Blue Turtle crew raised the alarm when the 65-year-old man surfaced unconscious after 15 minutes in the water with a team of six other divers.

The man was airlifted to Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester, by coastguard helicopter but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Portland Coastguard said it received an emergency radio call from the Lyme Regis-based boat at 12.04pm yesterday.

The town’s lifeboat was launched and several vessels offered assistance, including Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay.

The group had been diving down to 31 metres on a wreck called Moidart.

A coastguard spokesman said: “He was with his dive buddy and he was okay until two metres below the surface and he indicated by his gauge he had plenty of air, but when they finally got to the top he was on his back.

“He underwent quite a lot of resuscitation and the helicopter crew worked on him on the way to Dorchester’s hospital.

“We told the crew of Blue Turtle to get back immediately into Lyme Regis and to make sure nobody left the boat before seeing the police for interview.”

The man, from the Notting Hill area of London, was declared dead at the hospital.

Blue Turtle skipper Doug Lanfear declined to comment and said the matter was in the hands of the police.

A police spokesman confirmed that the diver was pronounced dead at 1.10pm.

He said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

Dive experts say fatalities are rare in the area and are often as a result of an unrelated medical condition.

John Walker, skipper of Lyme Regis dive boat Miss Pattie, said: “These things happen. Diving is a fantastic sport but it’s an environment which we are privileged to be in and a lot of divers don’t appreciate the full aspect of it.

“There is a lot of netting put on wrecks today so he could have got caught up in netting, it could have been bad visibility, he could have panicked, there could have been an equipment malfunction, or it could have been a medical problem.”

Dale Spree, owner of Fathom and Blues dive centre in Weymouth, said: “Diving clearly has some inherent risk in that you are operating in an environment you are not born to survive in.

“In this area we probably get no more than one or two deaths a year. The cause of that might be absolutely nothing to do with diving, it may be someone has an unknown heart condition.”

Keith Ferris, owner of West Bay Diving, said: “I feel deep sadness for the skipper of Blue Turtle because at the end of the day, we are only water taxis. We take them from A to B, we have no control over what goes on beneath the water.

“He is a professional skipper and knows what he’s doing and would have tried everything in his powers to revive him.”