Ships, yachts, helicopter and more joined in mass search for divers

An Irish coastguard helicopter in action during an earlier incident
An Irish coastguard helicopter in action during an earlier incident

The extent of the operation to find three divers missing off the Antrim coast has been revealed.

A major air and sea search was launched after the divers went missing off Blackhead, near Whitehead, Co Antrim, shortly before 5.30pm.

An Irish Coastguard helicopter

An Irish Coastguard helicopter

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter was involved in the search along with Coastguard rescue teams from Portmuck and Larne.

The alarm was raised when the divers were 40 minutes late returning back.

Larne All-weather lifeboat launched in search of them.

This was followed by Larne inshore lifeboat, and the crews were quickly on scene in the Blackhead Area to commence the search.

In addition included Bangor RNLI, an Irish Coast Guard helicopter, and four shipping vessels joined in – as well as two boats from Whitehead Yacht club, a coastguard team from Portmuch, and more.

The RNLI said: “The weather conditions of calm seas with thick banks of rolling fog caused poor visibility and challenging search conditions.

“Larne RNLI inshore lifeboat located the three divers at 6.50pm on a cliff face north of The Gobbins.

“The divers were recovered into the lifeboat and did not require medical assistance however they were fatigued, hungry and thirsty.

“Larne All-weather lifeboat then took the divers onboard and transferred them safely back to Belfast Coastal Operations Centre in Bangor.”

Visibility had been down to about 15 metres in some places (16ft).

The RNLI added: “The divers did the right thing and stayed together. We were fearful as time passed and our lifeboat crews were still searching the area with no sightings but thankfully the tide took them north and to nearby rocks.

“They were exhausted when they were finally located and recovered onto the inshore lifeboat.

“We are extremely thankful that the callout ended well with everyone accounted for and safely recovered. Our thanks to everyone involved in the search.”