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Major beach search in Lowestoft 'possibly a hoax'

PUBLISHED: 18:30 29 April 2011

Suffolk police car

Suffolk police car

Archant © 2009

AN investigation was launched this week after a man sparked a major land, sea and air search by claiming he had seen someone in trouble in the sea close to Lowestoft beach.

The Lowestoft and Southwold coastguard teams, Lowestoft’s RNLI Lifeboat, the Suffolk police helicopter and an RAF Sea King rescue helicopter were all called out about 1.15am on Easter Monday.

But after a “very thorough” search, and no one being found, police inquiries into the incident were continuing as The Journal went to press, with a force spokesman saying it was “possibly a hoax”.

The spokesman said: “An officer came across the man on Claremont Pier just after 1am on Monday morning and a full-scale search was launched. He reported hearing a shout for help and seeing a man in the water and subsequently jumped in after him, but managed to get out of the water to raise the alarm.”

A major search for the missing person was begun close to the pier, involving the coastguards, ambulance and Lowestoft police. A low tide aided those on the beach and, with helicopters helping from the air, the teams spent two hours combing coastline between the South Pier and Kessingland before the search was called off.

“With nothing found after numerous searches, the teams were stood down,” a spokesman for Lowestoft’s coastguard team said. “Police are continuing their inquiries as the coastguard didn’t believe anyone was missing.”

A spokesman for Yarmouth Coastguard said the Lowestoft search had come during a “very busy” Easter period, with about 10 times as many incidents as usual.

Between Friday and Monday, Yarmouth Coastguard, who cover the entire Norfolk and Suffolk coast, dealt with 41 incidents. That compares with just one incident dealt with between 8am and 4pm on Tuesday.

The spokesman said: “The numbers of incidents we get depends on the weather and time of year. In summertime that number can be considerable – say 20-plus a day. At other times it can be two or three calls: it is very difficult to predict. Over the weekend we had summer levels.”

The rise in call-outs coincided with a House of Commons Transport Committee beginning its scrutiny of government plans to make cutbacks in the coastguard service. Under the plans, regional bases – including the one at Yarmouth – will be replaced by three 24-hour stations at Aberdeen, Dover and Solent.

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