THE Weymouth and Portland community is in mourning as it comes to terms with the loss of three fishermen in the worst local marine tragedy of recent times.
Floral tributes have been left at Weymouth harbourside, church congregations have lit candles and said prayers, and silences have been observed for the crew of the stricken Purbeck Isle fishing boat – skipper David ‘Farley’ McFarlane, 35, and crew members, Jack Craig, 22, and Robert Prowse, 20. David’s body is the only one to have been recovered from the sea.
A search for Jack and Robert was called off on Saturday after the wreck of the boat was found on the seabed and coastguards said there was no hope of finding them alive.
The 36ft ‘potter’ Purbeck Isle was reported missing early on Thursday evening after failing to return from a day’s fishing for whelks off Portland.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it received no communication from the crew of Purbeck Isle before the boat disappeared.
Local fishermen had tried calling the men’s mobiles but found the phones were cut off.
The news families and friends were dreading came when a body was found in the sea on Friday afternoon – later confirmed to be David – and the wreck of the stricken boat was discovered lying on the seabed at a depth of 50 metres, about nine miles off Portland Bill. Desperate efforts to find David’s two companions continued amid hopes they could have taken to the life raft when they ran into difficulty.
But these were dashed when the raft was discovered on board the wreck. The major search coordinated by Portland Coastguard, which covered an extensive area of sea off the Dorset and Devon coast and involved coastguard helicopters, three lifeboats, coastguard teams, National Coastwatch Institution lookouts, naval vessels and other boats, was called off just before 3pm on Saturday following an underwater scan of the wreck of Purbeck Isle.
The tragedy will be the subject of an investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, assisted by Dorset Police. As the search was stood down, Portland Coastguard Rescue Coordination Centre Manager Mark Rodaway said: “After a prolonged and extensive three-day search, sadly, the time has now passed when we could have hoped that the two remaining crew members from the Purbeck Isle would be found alive.
“Our thoughts are with the families of all three crewmen at this difficult time.”