The Purbeck Isle tragedy: Sadness at loss of lives

Bournemouth Echo: DANGERS: West Bay fisherman Mark Cornwell expressed his sadness and called for the retention of the rescue helicopter on Portland DANGERS: West Bay fisherman Mark Cornwell expressed his sadness and called for the retention of the rescue helicopter on Portland

THE West Bay fisherman who built a boat which sunk off Portland Bill has said how saddened he is by the loss of its three crew.

The alarm was raised when the Purbeck Isle and its crew members David ‘Farley’ McFarlane, 35, Jack Craig, 22, and Robert Prowse, 20, failed to return to its Weymouth base last Thursday night.

Mr McFarlane’s body is the only one to have been recovered from the sea so far 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 10 miles off Portland.

David Sales, 75, said he and his cousin Bill Gibbons had the boat built 52 years ago in Appledore in Devon as a lobster catcher.

Mr Sales, of Burton Road, near West Bay, who has been a fisherman for 55 years, said: “From all the fishing community’s point of view it was very sad.”

Mr Sales had the 38 feet-long boat built and sold it ten years later.

He added: “We are all part of a community and it is a loss that really effects us all and reverberates. I am sure that the whole of the fishing community along the south coast wish to pass on their condolences.

“It does bring home quite severely the risk there is out on the sea.

“I often think the general public don’t quite appreciate it that the sea is so unforgiving.

“I think it must have happened quite quickly.

“It leaves us all feeling shocked, saddened and vulnerable.”

The three crew were all from the Weymouth and Portland area, and the boat was based in Weymouth harbour.

Mr Sales said although it appeared in this case the Portland helicopter could not have saved them it was still reassuring for fishermen to know it is there.

He added his voice to calls to keep the aircraft in the area despite plans to axe it in 2017.

Mr Sales said: “There will be an investigation obviously but no-one of us wants to see the helicopter moved.

“I don’t think any part of the seagoing fraternity whoever they are wish to see that helicopter go.

“It is in such a prominent place on the south coast it seems incredible that they ever thought about moving it.”

West Bay fishermen Mark Cornwell, who has been fishing on his own full-time for six or seven years, said it was very sad to hear about the loss of the Weymouth boat.

He said: “Fishermen try hard not to think of the dangers of their trade but it is a way of life more than anything else. It is not the easiest way of making a living.

“It sounds like in this particular incident the Portland Coastguard helicopter wouldn’t have helped but I am amazed that they are thinking about getting rid of it because of the amount of time it is used – it has got to be one of the busiest.”

• CLIVE Edwards, station manager from the Lyme Bay National Coastwatch Institute, said they monitored the search transmissions but didn’t play an active role.

He said: “We were saddened by the whole thing and everybody is sorry. It was a disaster. We were involved in monitoring the radio traffic for the search.

“Although it was actually beyond our horizon so to speak, it is just another reason why we are here and an example of how dangerous the sea is.”

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