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Hope fades as rescue teams call off search for missing kayaker

By Laura Abernethy

Published 30/09/2015

Missing kayaker Robert Hanna
Missing kayaker Robert Hanna
Members of the public joined search and rescue teams in the hunt for missing kayaker Robert Hanna from Carrickfergus
Members of the public joined search and rescue teams in the hunt for missing kayaker Robert Hanna from Carrickfergus

The search for a missing kayaker was stood down last night as rescue workers found no trace of Robert Hanna despite a massive operation along the Co Antrim coast.

The search, which involved four lifeboats, four helicopters and an Irish Air Corps plane, was launched on Monday night after the 47-year-old did not return to shore to pick up his son from school.

The father-of-three from Carrickfergus is believed to have left Portmuck at around 1.30pm on Monday.

He was due to collect his son from school at around 3pm but the alarm was raised at around 7pm by a family member when he still had not returned home.

His car was left in the car park at Portmuck and yesterday police smashed the windows of the vehicle to check its contents and to look for anything that might help with the search.

The search effort included the Irish Coastguard rescue helicopter based at Dublin, the police helicopter, lifeboats from Red Bay, Donaghadee, Bangor and the all-weather and inshore lifeboats from Larne, along with Coastguard rescue teams from Portmuck, Larne and Bangor.

A search and rescue Royal Navy Sea King helicopter from Prestwick in Scotland with heat-seeking equipment was also involved in the operation.

Despite the extensive operation along the Co Antrim coast from Carrickfergus to Glenarm and reaching as far as Crawfordsburn and Donaghadee, there were no sign of the missing father-of three.

After over 24 hours, the team took the decision to finish the search at around 3.45pm yesterday.

Volunteer lifeboats from Larne, Red Bay, Bangor and Donaghadee and all rescue helicopters were stood down.

Coastguard rescue officers in the area will continue to look for any signs of Mr Hanna, but the main operation has been stopped.

Police will now take the lead in the missing persons operation.

Yesterday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "We know that he was expected home before the Coastguard got the alarm, so he's been missing for about 23 hours now.

"The team has taken the decision to stand down.

"He has been missing for a long time and there have been no sightings.

"All the assets including the rescue helicopters and the lifeboats will be stood down.

"The Coastguard rescue officers will continue over the next few days to look out for anything.

"There does come a point where you have to make that very difficult call.

"It's devastatingly sad for his friends and family but we have tried and we couldn't find him."

Superintendent Ryan Henderson said: "Police received the report that Mr Hanna was missing on Monday afternoon.

"Since then an extensive air, land and sea search, stretching along the coast and over to Scotland, has been conducted under the co-ordination of the Coast guard.

"Unfortunately this has not yet led us to find Mr Hanna.

"Over the coming hours and days we will continue to work with search and rescue teams, concentrating on the coastline, in the hope of finding him and getting him back safely to his family.

"I would ask anyone who has any information that may assist us with our enquiries to contact the PSNI on the non emergency number 101."

The Coastguard urged the public to remain vigilant and to report any possible sightings of Mr Hanna or his kayak.

Alex Smith, maritime operations controller at Belfast Coastguard, said: "We would just ask the public along the coastline from Portmuck down to Gobbins, and north from Larne to Ballycastle, to keep a sharp lookout for any debris or anything suspicious that they might see along the coastline."

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