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Fisherman dies after boat swamped in storm

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 30, 2013

The 19ft-fishing boat JCK which sank in gale-force winds

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A Westcountry fisherman died after his boat sank in gale-force winds off the South Devon coast.

The man, who was in his mid-40s and from the Torquay area, was last seen travelling past a small island called Thatcher's Rock on Monday evening. His body was discovered by Exmouth lifeboat rescue crews in the early hours of yesterday.

The 19ft (5.8m) JCK had been following another fishing vessel back to port soon after 6pm on Monday when they lost contact.

Coastguards, who co-ordinated the rescue-attempt with several other teams, said the skipper may have been swamped in stormy seas. Debris from the boat had been found "at various points off the coastline", they said.

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The search was launched when the Brixham-registered boat failed to return to Torquay Harbour on Monday evening when gale force winds of 60mph were reported in the English Channel.

Rescue helicopters, lifeboats, coastguard rescue teams and two Royal Navy frigates went out searching for the boat. Conditions at sea were said to be "horrendous" at the time of the rescue, with westerly gales causing difficult conditions.

Jeremy Linn, from Brixham Coastguard, said it was likely the skipper's boat had been swamped.

"He had been fishing for the afternoon and was coming home with a catch on board, which means he obviously had quite a lot of weight in the boat," he said.

"It was not good weather – it was very windy, we'd had lots of rain and the sea state was rough – so it's a strong possibility that the boat was swamped in some way and sank."

Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, Brixham and the South Hams, wrote on Twitter: "So sad to hear of the loss of a Brixham fisherman. Think of those who risk their lives in our most dangerous environment to feed the nation."

A spokesman for Torbay RNLI lifeboat said the fishing boat had been reported missing just after 6pm. The red-coloured vessel and its one-man crew had been due back at Brixham harbour at 7pm.

Two vessels were out fishing, but only one returned to harbour. It is understood that the fisherman on board the first vessel then reported the second one missing.

Sergeant Stephen Shepherd, of Torbay Police, posted on Twitter: "The searchers are currently working in gale force winds of up to 58mph with rough seas.

"Just amazing to watch Brixham Coastguard working on this search. So much professionalism and hard work going on.

"My thanks to everyone who helped in the search and all those on Twitter tweeting their support. My thoughts and prayers are with the family tonight.

"It was truly amazing to see the efforts made by all the services in the search, coastguard, RN, RNLI, Police and merchant vessels teamwork."

The search was called off yesterday and the man's next of kin were informed.

Police said the incident was not being treated as suspicious.

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