Diver, 14, feared dead off Devon coast
Published 14/08/2008 | 13:04
The search for a 14-year-old boy who went missing at sea during a scuba diving trip with his father was called off yesterday, suggesting that rescuers believe there is little chance of his being found alive.
Louis Price, from Newport in South Wales, disappeared following a dive at Berry Head, Devon, on Tuesday.
He had set out with his father from an inflatable boat. Police said that, after the dive, the father surfaced first and the boy followed soon after, with neither appearing to be in trouble.
But the rest of the diving party – the boy's mother, aunt and uncle – were unable to start the boat. The boy and his father had to tread water while the group flagged down a passing vessel for help.
When the family members on the boat turned around, the boy had vanished. A mayday call was issued by the nearby boat and a major rescue operation was launched, involving police divers, 13 private vessels, five RNLI lifeboats and police, Navy and Coastguard helicopters.
The search started at 2pm on Tuesday but yesterday the operation to find him had been scaled down.
Police and coastguards had changed the focus of their searches from a sea rescue search to a land search, meaning that they are now looking for a body.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "Unfortunately due to the fact that more than 24 hours have elapsed [since he disappeared], the police and Coastguard have decided that there is nothing further that can be done at this stage."
Earlier a spokesman had said: "Following the dive, his father was first to surface and it appears that the boy was seen to surface soon after. He was described by family as being seen slightly tilted backwards as though his jacket was inflated and was buoyant in no apparent signs of distress.
"Having surfaced there appears to have been a problem trying to start the small boat and the father subsequently called for help from a passing charter boat who came to assist. It is at this point that all parties lost sight of the boy."
The spokesman added that the boy and his father were trained divers and it was unclear how he came to vanish after appearing to be well following the dive.
Rick Parker, 44, the skipper of the charter boat, Jennifer Ann, said: "I was taking customers on a diving trip when I saw the small craft and a man waving his arms. This is the international sign for distress and I went over. He had become separated from his partner who he told me was his son.
"I put out a mayday and began cruising around looking for the boy. The father was obviously distraught."