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Diver is rescued in sea drama after drifting from Antrim coast

By Nevin Farrell

Published 20/07/2015

A helicopter and lifesavers involved in the rescue off Rathlin yesterday
A helicopter and lifesavers involved in the rescue off Rathlin yesterday
Searching for the missing man with binoculars

A diver is safe after a massive search and rescue mission off the north Antrim coast found him drifting - four miles from his start point.

Richard Lafferty from diving expedition business Aquaholics spoke of his relief after it was revealed that the English diver had been discharged from hospital.

"The diver is OK. He went adrift off a wreck and has been located successfully by another boat," he said.

The man was part of a group who had been diving off a wreck - Loughgarry - when he missing on the east side of Rathlin Island.

The alarm was raised at 12.35pm yesterday and a major search operation swung into operation.

Helicopters sped to the scene along with lifeboats and a number of local boats.

It was one of these, the Ballycastle-based Sea Harrier, which found the diver.

"We are happy the outcome was good. It happened around lunchtime, he surfaced and went adrift and as a precaution we called the emergency services and he was successfully located," said Mr Lafferty.

"There is nothing wrong, he is 100%. We are completely glad and thanks to the boat that found him and thanks to the emergency services for their quick response."

The diver was airlifted to Craigavon Area Hospital which has a decompression chamber for divers who surface too quickly and suffer 'the bends'. But Mr Lafferty said the diver did not require the chamber and had been discharged.

Portrush and Red Bay RNLI assisted in the rescue of the diver who was missing for two hours.

The all-weather Portrush lifeboat under coxswain Des Austin launched immediately and made its way to the scene where it became the search coordinator.

Red Bay RNLI, meanwhile, was about to start a training exercise with the Prestwick-based Rescue 177 helicopter when both its inshore lifeboat and the helicopter were diverted to assist in the search.

Sligo Coastguard helicopter Rescue 118 was also scrambled to the scene while a number of local boats from Rathlin Island and Ballycastle joined the operation.

Weather conditions at the time were described as cloudy with a Force four-to-five westerly wind blowing and a slight swell of two metres.

The search went on for two hours when a local vessel located the diver four miles from his original location at 2.30pm.

Mr Lafferty was then transferred to the Portrush all-weather lifeboat and then airlifted by Rescue 118 and transferred to hospital.

Mr Austin said: "We are so relieved this afternoon that after almost two hours of searching the diver has been located safe and well.

"This was a multi-agency search and rescue effort where the emergency services were assisted greatly by a number of local vessels.

"I would like to commend the diving party for raising the alarm as soon as they noticed one of their group had gone missing and praise the community effort that ensured this man was brought safely back to shore."

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