Body found in search for missing fishermen after ‘freak wave’ sank boat

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Divers have recovered a body in the search of two fishermen feared drowned after a "freak wave" sank their boat.

Adam Harper, 26, and Robert Morley, 38, have been missing since the Joanna C sank in the early hours on Saturday.

Skipper Dave Bickerstaff, 34, was found clinging to a lifebuoy and rushed to hospital after four hours in freezing waters off Seaford, East Sussex.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: "Following the tragic incident on 21 November in which the fishing boat Joanna C capsized south of Newhaven, the body of one of the two missing fishermen was recovered by divers from the wreck last night, Monday 23 November.

"He has been identified as Adam Harper, 26, from Brixham, Devon, and his next of kin have been notified.

"Robert Morley, 38, from Pembrokeshire, is still missing.

"Our thoughts are with their families at this time."

The coastguard received a distress signal when their 45-foot scalloping vessel from Brixham, Devon, named the Joanna C, sank, DevonLive reports.

Some 14 vessels were involved in the search which halted overnight and resumed on Sunday, before coming to an end again at around 2.30pm.

Mr Morley's mum Jackie Woolford told The Sun her son is believed to have lost hold of a safety ring he'd been clinging to.

She said: "Someone said something about a freak wave had hit it and knocked it over."

Jackie said Mr Bickerstaff survived and told how he resuscitated her son after he "went blue", but that he had lost him moments later as they clung to the life ring.

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She said: "He tried to give him mouth to mouth apparently and then got him back round, in the water.

"He did say he had the ring and Robert got cold really quick when he went in the water and then apparently he just saw him drift."

She went on: "He turned around and when he looked back Robert was gone."

The heartbroken residents of Brixham, the small fishing town the men were from, have been lighting candles throughout the search, with some leaving cards and flowers beside the well-known Man and Boy statue in the town.

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Exmouth Coastguard and Rescue Team posted a candle tribute on its Facebook page stating: "For those lost at sea from the Joanna C and the Brixham fishing community."

A member of the community Sian Danielle said: "I’m just so touched at how Brixham as a community pulls together. The love and warmth that comes together at times like this is beautiful.

"It’s a very emotional weekend for many people in Brixham and all we can do is pull together, and pray that they are found and returned to their families.

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"Brixham community will continue to light candles and support each other no matter what it takes."

Tony Rowe, a 40-year-old fisherman from Brixham, was at sea for 10 years, owning the Joanna C vessel for around five – up until 2006.

He set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen where donations have quickly smashed its £1,000 target, soaring over £10,000.

  • Fishing
  • Police

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