Rescuers fear the worst as desperate search for Great Yarmouth men missing in Lowestoft speedboat tragedy is called off

PUBLISHED: 09:54 12 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:54 12 March 2014

Lifeboat and helicopter search off Lowestoft Coast.

Lifeboat and helicopter search off Lowestoft Coast.

©Archant 2014

It is feared three men from Great Yarmouth believed to be on a fishing trip have died after a search operation was called off following the capsizing of a speedboat off Lowestoft.

Coastguards continue the search for missing bodies after a speedboat sunk off the Lowestoft Coast.
Coastguards continue the search for missing bodies after a speedboat sunk off the Lowestoft Coast.

The three men are thought to have been on board the 18ft speedboat that was spotted upturned near Lowestoft’s Ness Point on Monday afternoon.

• Update: Search finished in Lowestoft boating tragedy as police confirm two men from Great Yarmouth area are missing

• Video: Timeline and reaction to Lowestoft sea tragedy

NB_Coastguard_Search.07 NB_Coastguard_Search.07

• Video: Boat recovered from water off the Lowestoft coast

Yesterday Suffolk police confirmed a man who died after he was pulled from the water was from Great Yarmouth.

Police were last night still looking for his next of kin as his body remained at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.

The coastgaurd search teams by Ness Point The coastgaurd search teams by Ness Point

Two possible theories have emerged about why the boat capsized – it struck an object or fishing lines got entangled in its propellers causing it to flip.

And as police tried to find the dead man’s relatives and examined the speedboat for clues as to why it capsized, a search for the two missing men was called off yesterday afternoon.

The search saw members from the Lowestoft and Southwold Coastguard Rescue Team scour the coastline from Corton to Kessingland from 10.30am with the support on the inshore lifeboat from the Gorleston and Great Yarmouth RNLI lifeboat station.

However, after three hours the search was called off with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency saying there were no plans for further searches to be carried out.

Debris found

Watching the coastguard teams in action yesterday was Mark Smith, who had found what is believed to be a fender from the speedboat on the shoreline at Corton yesterday afternoon, writes Kathryn Bradley.

Mr Smith, 51, from Clover Way, Corton, said: “It is a tragic situation and you have to think of the ones that have been left behind – it must be incredibly difficult for them.”

Mr Smiths’s father, Bob Smith, has been fishing off the coast of Lowestoft for more than 50 years.

He was at Lowestoft Yacht Club when the man was found in the water.

He and a friend took their boats out and helped to collect debris, including a dining chair with the legs trimmed down, a fuel can and a buoyancy aid, from the sea.

The keen angler said: “I do go angling and have been going out of Lowestoft for more than 50 years now.

“I know what it is like out there.

“I think you have got to be aware of the forecasts and respect the sea and fear it a bit.

“If you don’t then you are in trouble.”

Speaking after the search finished ,Peter Byatt, station manager for the coastguard team, said: “If the two missing people are believed to have been in the sea for 24 hours then their chances of survival are remote now.

“But there is the very outside chance they managed to get to the shore and went home without telling anyone.

“We searched a massive area and found nothing.”

Mr Byatt said that the two blades of the speedboat’s propeller had been broken and it was possible the vessel had hit an object, perhaps a wreck, off Lowestoft.

He added that gillnets had been found on board the speedboat.

Mr Byatt said: “They were definitely on a fishing trip and I think somewhere between Corton and Ness Point they struck an object.”

A MCA statement yesterday said: “The shore search at Lowestoft has now been completed.

“Resources have been stood down and there are no plans for any further searches.”

Yesterday the police said the boat had been taken to an undisclosed location so it can be examined to see why it capsized. As part of the investigation Suffolk police have received calls about the boat, but officers are not seeking its owner. A post-mortem examination is due to be held on the dead man at the James Paget University Hospital today.

The man, who was wearing a life bouyancy aid, was located in the water between South Pier and Claremont Pier at 2.25pm on Monday and he died at the James Paget University Hospital after he was pulled from the water by Lowestoft RNLI’s Spirit of Lowestoft lifeboat which had a crew of four men and two women.

There was then an extensive sea and air search for the two missing men, which carried on until just after midnight yesterday.

Lowestoft lifeboat coxswain John Fox said: “When we launched there was good visibility and a fresh breeze.

“The wind was easterly with a speed of approximately 15 mph, gusting to 20 mph.

“The whole incident was quite exhausting for the lifeboat’s six volunteer crew.

“Not only did they have the recovery of the casualty to deal with but they were also searching for the majority of the 10 hours that we were at sea.

“This meant long periods of concentration while keeping a look out for anything unusual in the water.

“For some of the newer members of the crew the incident also brought home why the RNLI does extensive casualty care training.”

Acting lifeboat operations manager Richard Musgrove said: ”Several of the crew reported seeing fishing line in the vicinity of the upturned boat’s engine and this may have a bearing on the cause of the incident.”

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch also launched an investigation yesterday.

Do you know anyone involved? Telephone Anthony Carroll on 01502 525835

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