MP calls for coastguard rethink after Weymouth fishing tragedy

Floral tributes on Weymouth's quayside Floral tributes have been left on Weymouth's quayside

The loss of three fishermen off the Dorset coast should lead to a rethink of changes to coastguard services, Dorset South MP Richard Drax has said.

Whelking vessel Purbeck Isle sank off Portland Bill having been reported missing on Thursday.

Mr Drax said it was "yet further ammunition" in the fight to keep a coastguard co-ordination centre and helicopter based in Portland.

The government says reform will provide a more reliable overall service.

An extensive search for the Purbeck Isle began after it failed to return to Weymouth at about 18:00 BST on Thursday.

The body of the crabber's skipper, 35-year-old David McFarlane, was discovered on Friday.

Robert Prowse The search for Robert Prowse and another crew member has been called off

Searches for crew members Robert Prowse and Jack Craig were later called off.

The wreck was found on Saturday with its life-raft still on board.

The Weymouth and Portland Coastguard co-ordination centre is scheduled to close after this summer's Olympics to be replaced by a new Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) in Hampshire.

A coastguard helicopter currently based at Portland is due to be replaced by a regional service after 2017.

'Continue to fight'

Mr Drax, a Conservative, said: "The helicopter did a superb job over a huge search area, covering hundreds of square miles.

"This shows how it is so important we have our own helicopter and I shall continue to fight to retain it.

"It reminds us of how professional our coastguard rescuers are and how we can't afford to lose a single one."

Portland Coastguard helicopter Portland is to lose its search-and-rescue helicopter

Mr Drax said he intended to raise the issue during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons and "revisit" it with Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning said: "I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those affected by this tragedy, which highlights the dangers faced on a daily basis by those working around our shores.

"The independent Marine Accident Investigation Branch is now working to identify the causes of this incident and we await the findings of their investigation."

The Department for Transport has previously said a more modern, faster fleet of helicopters operating from fewer bases will provide a more reliable overall service that still meets the key search-and-rescue requirements.

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