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Bodies of missing speedboat men recovered by RNLI's search team

By Brett Campbell

Two men who went missing in a speedboat in the Irish Sea off the coast of Dumfries and Galloway have been found dead.

Coastguard sources say the bodies of the men, aged 46 and 35, were recovered from the sea and are now "in the care of the police".

RNLI lifeboats were launched from Bangor and Portaferry to aid the search and the fleet's largest all-weather vessel - which has a nautical range of 250 miles - was launched from Donaghadee to join the extensive search.

It is understood the bodies were brought ashore by lifeboat at Portpatrick, on the Rhinns of Galloway, in south west Scotland.

They were found just before an extensive search operation approached a second night.

The Glasgow Herald reported that one observer at Portpatrick saw the RNLI boat returning with "screens covering the boat, so sadly looking grim", as a major police presence awaited at the harbour. The painstaking search, which was based on the vessel's known and projected movements and was being concentrated off the Mull of Galloway, involved lifeboats and two search and rescue helicopters from 10 different stations around the UK.

The main search area was 15 miles off the Irish coast and 10 miles from the Scottish coastline.

The Donaghadee lifeboat was called back at 1am on Sunday morning before being re-deployed at 10am. It returned again yesterday evening to refuel and re-crew and it was due to be deployed for a third time before the bodies were found.

The search started after the men went missing in an 18ft black Fletcher speedboat in the Irish Sea on Saturday afternoon and continued overnight as rescuers refused to give up hope.

The alarm was raised at 6.15pm after the pair failed to return to Port Logan from where they had left at 9am.

It is not yet clear what happened to the two friends who are understood to have been well equipped for an emergency.

Police Scotland said the two men had launched the boat on Saturday and were believed to be heading towards Stranraer.

RNLI Donaghadee spokesman Maurice Neill said blue skies and sunshine posed serious challenges to rescue efforts yesterday.

"It brings complications," he said. "Visibility is not as good on a sunny day which can make it hard to spot what we are looking for. It's also tough on the crew."

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