EMERGENCY services launched a major search operation yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, after a diver was reported missing in Lyme Bay.
Coastguards received a call at 3.23pm from a friend of the missing man, who had been diving off the same boat, five miles south of Lyme Regis.
The two divers, one from Cornwall and the other from Edinburgh, had both been staying in Bridport and were diving for scallops when one of them became detached from his surface buoy/marker. He had been diving without a buddy.
The marker buoy was discovered by the other man aboard the boat with no diver attached. He then contacted the coastguard to inform them of his missing friend.
Lifeboat crews from Lyme Regis and Exmouth were launched, as well Lyme Regis coastguards and the search and rescue helicopters from St Athan in Wales and Newquay.
Several fishing boats also joined the search, as well as HMS Tyne, which was in Lyme Bay conducting routine maritime security patrols.
After nearly two hours searching, Sub Lieutenant Boyle from HMS Tyne spotted the lone diver, three miles from where he had entered the water.
He had surfaced but had lost sight of the boat and was recovered safe and well by the Exmouth lifeboat crew. He was then passed to Lyme Regis lifeboat where the crew brought him back to the safety of the harbour.
The diver, who did not want to be named, said: “I came up to the surface with my bag of scallops and was shouting at the guy in the boat but the swell had picked up, the waves were bigger and he was up wind so couldn’t hear me.
“I saw the helicopter fly over and some of the other boats searching. I was very relieved when the lifeboat crew arrived and pulled me out of the water. Thank you to everyone involved.”
Both of those onboard had been diving as a leisure activity and were fined by the police as they were deemed to have been in breach of the lockdown guidance.
A coastguard spokesperson said: “The government has been clear that during this coronavirus pandemic we need to stay home to save lives.
“Leisure diving is not considered essential and every 999 call made could put our frontline responders at risk of COVID-19 and places avoidable pressure on our vital NHS services.”
The RNLI has also issued advice that the public do not use the water for exercise during this time.
Lyme Regis lifeboat operations manager Nick Marks said: “We are glad that the diver is safe and well however the RNLI is recommending that you should not go in or near the water during this lockdown.”