Missing cockle picker: Air and sea search for Darren Rees suspended

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image copyrightDyfed-Powys Police
image captionDarren Rees was last seen picking cockles at low tide

An air and sea search for a missing cockle picker off the Welsh coast has been suspended.

Darren Rees, 43, was last seen cockling at low tide in the Machynys area of Llanelli on Tuesday afternoon.

Dyfed-Powys Police said he was wearing green waders and a blue jumper, and has asked anyone who may have seen him to contact the force.

The coastguard said despite an "extensive search" no trace of Mr Rees has been found.

It is understood the coastguard will not resume air and sea searches on Thursday as the police are now leading the investigation, although coastguard foot patrols will continue.

"Everyone worked very hard together searching the entire area last night and then again this morning and then throughout the day," said Max Hawkins, senior maritime operations officer for HM Coastguard.

"The search has now been suspended, but if we get further information we will resume it.

"Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this very difficult time."

image captionA helicopter hovers above the Loughor Estuary as search teams scoured the area on Wednesday

A group of pickers also joined the search on Wednesday.

One told the BBC he knew Mr Rees "very well" and that a "big group" of his colleagues were determined to do all they could to help find him.

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Mr Rees was reported missing at about 18:45 GMT but has not been seen since before it went dark, police said.

The area of coastline around Carmarthenshire and the Gower is a popular area for cocklers with beds at Loughor, Penclawdd and near to North Dock in Llanelli - near to where Mr Rees went missing.

Mr Rees's vehicle and boat were found at the car park near Machynys and taken away by police on Tuesday night.

Ch Insp Chris Neve from Dyfed-Powys Police said the search would resume in the morning.

"I am satisfied that between us we have done everything possible to try and locate Mr Rees today using the assets we have available to us," he said.

"Police officers will be continuing to conduct intelligence-led inquiries throughout the night, in and around the Llanelli area."

From BBC reporter Rhys Williams at the scene

image captionPolice, coastguard, and RNLI volunteers have now suspended the search off the Carmarthenshire coast

The coastguard's team said it had been searching since 06:00. Teams have now completed their search in all exposed areas of the estuary.

The 43-year-old is described as an "experienced cockler" but the nature of the fast-moving tides on the estuary mean the margins between returning safely and getting caught in the water are very small.

Mr Rees is thought to have been on a cockle bed near Machynys on the Carmarthenshire side of the inlet.

Cocklers at the scene said leaving the bed as little as 10 minutes later than scheduled could prove fatal as the tide comes in from three different directions.

As well as Mr Rees's colleagues helping to search on the sands of the inlet, a crew of about 30 friends and family walked the edges of the seabed near Machynys Golf Club to aid the team of search and rescue officers and volunteers.

image captionThe search resumed on Wednesday morning

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