Missing French Crewmen Presumed Dead

St Mary's lifeboat 'The Whiteheads'

St Mary’s lifeboat ‘The Whiteheads’

Two Frenchmen who fell overboard from a fishing boat, The Neway, off Scilly last night are still missing this lunchtime, presumed dead.

An extensive air and sea search, which involved the St Mary’s lifeboat and the RNAS Culdrose helicopter, was launched last night.

Volunteers were called out at around 7.25pm to a position 30 miles northwest of the islands, near the Land’s End traffic separation zone.

The rescue helicopter began a parallel search an hour later in difficult conditions. Their crew reported a wind speed of 25 knots and wave heights of 3m.

At the height of the search, six nearby fishing boats also joined in the hunt for the missing men.

Watch officer at Falmouth Coastguard, Richard Williams, was in communication with St Mary’s lifeboat coxswain Peter Hicks and said that at times the lifeboat men were battling force 8 winds and a sea state of 6.

Mr Williams says the chance of the two fishermen surviving would have been greatly increased had they been wearing lifejackets. It’s understood that the fisherman were wearing yellow oilskins but no life-saving equipment.

Crew did throw a lifebuoy into the water from the Neway, but it didn’t help.

The Neway operates from the Brittany town of Dolédec and French Police have named one of the men as 25-year-old Anthony Deveaux of Paimpolais.

St Mary’s lifeboat stood down their search at around 11.30pm last night. The French Navy is sending a vessel with a helicopter on board to join a group of French vessels patrolling the area. It’s thought unlikely that the men will have survived the conditions.

Last night’s call out was the first rescue mission for the newest St Mary’s lifeboat volunteers, Joe Thomas and Dan Moulson.