Diver Swam Towards Rescuers After 11-Hour Ordeal In Sea

4 May 2017, 11:11 | Updated: 4 May 2017, 11:20


A scallop diver saved after spending 11 hours in the sea managed to swim towards his rescuers to ensure they saw him.

Rescuers said the man is ''very lucky'' to be alive after being pulled from the Pentland Firth in the far north of Scotland.

A major search operation was launched after he was reported missing from the dive boat Fair Morn at 5.20pm on Wednesday, off Burwick in Orkney.

Shetland Coastguard co-ordinated an ''extensive search'' of the Pentland Firth area overnight involving RNLI lifeboats from Thurso, Longhope and Stromness and two Coastguard rescue helicopters.

The crew of Russian sail training vessel Yunyi Baltiets, which was passing through the Pentland Firth, spotted the man in the water at 3.15am on Thursday.

They pulled him from the sea and he was then transferred to Thurso RNLI lifeboat at 4am and brought to shore, where he was taken to hospital in Wick.

Commenting on the rescue, RNLI Thurso coxswain Wing Munro said: ''He is a very lucky chap to be still alive after being about 11 hours in the water in the Pentland Firth as it is very chilly.

''He had all his diving gear on, that would have helped a lot, and probably very good quality, thick gear.

''The sailing ship that picked him up, he saw it coming and swam towards it himself. He still had a bit of strength left.

''He is a very lucky man as it's not easy to see someone in the dark, you have only got a couple of search lights and if the search light is not in the right place you could miss it easily.

''He is also lucky that anybody saw him at that time of the morning.''

The diver appeared to be in reasonable health but was taken to hospital for a check-up.

During the rescue operation, shoreline searches were also carried out by Duncansby, Scrabster, Hoy and St Margaret's Hope Coastguard teams, while radio broadcasts were made to all vessels in the area to keep a lookout for a missing diver.

Gary Harris, who was co-ordinating the incident in Shetland Coastguard operations centre, said: ''During search operations at sea, it's incredibly challenging to spot a head in the water, especially at night.

''The diver was very fortunate to be spotted by the crew on the sail training vessel Yunyi Baltiets and taken aboard safely.''

It was the second dramatic rescue in recent days after surfer Matthew Bryce survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board.

Mr Bryce, 22, understood to be from Airdrie in North Lanarkshire, was reported missing by family when he failed to return from a Sunday morning surf off the Argyll coast of Scotland.

He was eventually found by a search and rescue helicopter at around 7.30pm on Monday, drifting in the North Channel, 13 miles from Northern Ireland and 16 miles from Scottish shores.

He is recovering from hypothermia in hospital in Belfast and is said to be ''comfortable and improving''.