A diver suffering breathing difficulties waited 90 minutes for a coastguard helicopter to arrive from Wales just a day after the Portland service took its final flight, it has been claimed.

The man was diving off Portland on Saturday afternoon when he started suffering from chest pains and had difficulty breathing.

Ian Taylor, of Skin Deep Diving, interrupted a ceremony commemorating the helicopter service to share his concerns. He said the coastguard was called at 1.40pm and the helicopter did not arrive until 3.10pm.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the service was on scene within 40 minutes of being tasked, after ‘necessary pre-planning’.

Mr Taylor said: “The skipper called it in and the hospital wanted [the diver] airlifted in and so the coastguard was requested. If you suffer chest pains after you come up from a dive, it’s quite worrying.

“The helicopter came an hour-and-a-half later. We’re used to a 15, maybe 20 minute wait but nothing like this. Not 90 minutes. I checked online to see what was going on and the helicopter that did come came from Cardiff.

"It’s a shambles - the day after the Portland helicopter went. They can’t cope without the Portland helicopter.

“People will die.”

The ceremony was held along the marina wall and a Portland stone plaque bearing the names of all 46 past and present crew members was unveiled as part of the farewell commemorations of the search and rescue helicopter, which ceased operations on Friday.

The area is now covered by a regional service based in Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire as part of modernisation by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Mr Taylor interrupted the ceremony to express his concerns about the changes. He said: “Everybody at the ceremony was waiting for the speeches to start and I just told them all what was going on. People did clap when I told them my concerns.

“We’ve been told the changes are going to make a better service but how can it be? Hopefully it doesn’t cost lives.”

Cllr Sandy West was at the plaque unveiling when Mr Taylor made his impromptu speech.

Cllr West said: “Ian Taylor was not there to protest against the day. He thanked the crews for what a great job they do and then told us about a diver on his boat in need of urgent medical attention. He’d been waiting 40 minutes at that point and then Ian left to get back to him.

“Hundreds of people gave him an applause because we all understand. On the day we were saying goodbye we had an incident - and right in the summer season. It’s a shame, but it did highlight why we fought so hard to keep the helicopter.”

The MCA confirmed the helicopter had been sent to Portland from South Wales.

When asked about the 90 minute waiting time, a spokesman said: “Following a call from a dive boat in the Portland area on Saturday, requesting assistance for an unwell diver, the UK Coastguard scrambled a coastguard rescue helicopter.

“Once all of the necessary pre-planning had been conducted, the aircraft was tasked and arrived on scene within 40 minutes. The man was airlifted from the scene and taken to hospital and is now in the care of the NHS.

“For a significant proportion of their time, coastguard helicopters are not on the ground at their base but are out conducting their duties around the UK. When an incident occurs, the UK Coastguard tasks the most appropriate resources, be they lifeboats, coastguard rescue teams, helicopters or other local resources.”

Speaking today (Monday), South Dorset MP Richard Drax said he had written to John Hayes, Minister of State for Maritime, to express his concern over the helicopter delay on Saturday.

Mr Drax was among those who attended the farewell ceremony to mark the closure of the Portland SAR base.

Mr Drax said: “Worryingly, we now know that the initial call was made at 1.40pm, with the SAR aircraft not reaching the dive boat until 3.10pm.

"The MCA claim that they reached the diver within 40 minutes of being tasked. If you do the simple maths, you will note there is a 50 minute gap.”

Mr Drax said the Portland helicopter could have been at the incident within 10 minutes.

He said: “My point is, I and many others have warned that when our aircraft is moved there will be a huge gap in SAR coverage along the south coast, and in particular my constituency.”

After asking the Minister for a “major rethink,” Mr Drax said: “The irony of this happening a day after the Portland helicopter was removed is overwhelming. We fought for years to retain our helicopter, ultimately unsuccessfully.

"We said that 25 per cent of all callouts happen in our waters and that helicopters from elsewhere would not arrive in time. Regrettably, our fears are now being borne out. Thank God, the diver survived this time.”