Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Missing person

Last nights shout was in many ways a 'classic' missing persons shout. Details were sketchy leaving us no option but to cover all the bases.

Shortly after launching both boats conducted a close inshore search from Peveril Point to Durslston Head. Nothing found. We then repeated this with a much slower and closer return trip. Again nothing found. We then returned along the same route but stopping periodically to fire parachute flares in the hope that this would illuminate further into the crevasses between rocks. This worked but yielded no result. This kind of search is tiring and tricky as pretty much every shadow becomes a potential casualty and each washed up lobster pot takes on a human form.

By the time we had completed this pass we had just about come to the conclusion that the missing person was not in this area. Then the eagle eyed Kev (who had gone ashore from the ILB) found a fairly large amount of wet blood on the rocks. This suggested that someone had fallen over the cliff and sustained injuries. Definitely a case of information which widens the pool of uncertainties rather than narrowing things down. It was beginning to look like we would be there a while. The Police were called at this point and Portland were asked to request the launch of the Solent Coastguard Helicopter (India Juliet) which was at immediate readiness. At this point there were perhaps 20 lifeboat crew, 10 Coastguards, 3 police and now the 4 man crew of IJ involved.

Unfortunately IJ was diverted whilst en-route to attend another incident so we returned to our slipway to await their arrival. At this point we had little hope of finding a casualty alive but there remained a faint chance that IJ's FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) camera could spot their body warmth either in amongst the rocks or in the sea. Sadly this was not the case. At this point the Coastguard ops room team have to make a judgement call about whether in their opinion the search has given a near 100% chance of finding what was there. On this occasion they felt that the search had been thorough and comprehensive and therefor that whatever had been there wasn't anymore.

These kind of outcomes are pretty hard to deal with. We know from the evidence that there was a person there and that they were hurt and hurt badly enough to need help. We also know that on this occasion we couldn't help them. This doesn't sit comfortably. Typically we will hear no more about this. Another un-resolved incident to add to the list.

Hopefully our casualty is well and being cared for somewhere. Our thoughts are with her...............