CREW on the Lyme Regis lifeboat were among the first rescuers called out to search for a missing Weymouth fishing boat.

They launched the Spirit of Loch Fyne to join the Weymouth lifeboat in an operation to find the Purbeck Isle which had gone missing off Portland.

The four-man lifeboat crew searched for the missing Weymouth fishing boat for four hours last Thursday night.

The alarm was raised when the Purbeck Isle and its three crew members David McFarlane, 35, and crew members, Jack Craig, 22, and Robert Prowse, 20, failed to return to their Weymouth base.

Mr McFarlane’s body has been recovered from the sea and the search was called off for the other crew members after the boat was discovered on the sea bed with its liferaft still on board.

The newly-arrived Lyme lifeboat, scoured a wide area from West Bay to Portland.

The vessel was launched at 11.24pm on Thursday and returned to station at 3.30am Friday having covered an area of some 30 miles without finding anything.

Martin Croad, who was at the helm, said: “Search conditions were difficult in total darkness and with a metre of swell.”

But, he added, the newly-arrived lifeboat Spirit of Loch Fyne ‘performed brilliantly’.

Other crew members were Tim Edwards, Ritchie Durrant and John Gage.

Lyme Regis fisherman Chris Wason, vice chairman of the South West Inshore Fishermen’s Association, said the loss of the Purbeck Isle was immensely sad.

Although he’d talked to the crew on the radio he didn’t know them personally.

He said: “It is upsetting and saddening for everybody, it is just horrendous.

“As far as I know they didn’t even have time to get a distress call out.

“It is one of those things that happens unfortunately, it is the job we are in.”

He said it did not sound like the Portland coastguard helicopter could have saved them but it was still unfortunate the decision had been made to axe the aircraft from Portland.

He said: “It is a bad thing the helicopter is going but it doesn’t sound like it would have made any difference to this situation.

“But having the helicopter here as a back-up is a comfort to fishermen.

“It will be a sad day when that goes but it is in the pipeline unfortunately.”