A MAN has told of his shock after seeing a swimmer who is now feared drowned fight to stay afloat in the sea.
The swimmer, named locally as Henry Maunder from Portsmouth, aged in his 20s, is believed to have been visiting Durdle Door in Dorset with two friends and was swimming when he got into difficulty.
A major search was launched after members of the public raised the alarm at about 4pm on Wednesday.
Among those who called for help was Philip Parr, 47, from Nottingham, who is holidaying in the area and had left the beach a short while earlier.
He said it was sunny but windy at the time and the sea was ‘really rough’.
Mr Parr said: ‘We saw these three lads go into the sea. My brother-in-law said “should we go and say something?”.
‘One came out straight away and sat on the floor on the beach. We didn’t really take much notice of them at that point.
‘We came back off the beach. As you get back up there’s a little path that runs onto the top.
‘We looked down and there was just one lad on his own in the sea. The other lad had come out. We started noticing this other lad wasn’t getting anywhere in terms of getting back out. We thought he was in trouble.
‘All of a sudden he was splashing and shouting, all of a sudden he just didn’t do anything.
‘He was floating at that point but he wasn’t moving.
‘The guy next to me called for help. I then called.
‘Then we could see a lot going on on the beach, shouting for help.’
Mr Parr said a friend and another man tried to rescue Mr Maunder, to no avail.
He added: ‘It was absolutely shocking. There was nothing anybody could have done.’
The RNLI and 10 coastguard rescue officers from Lulworth and Wyke Regis teams were involved in the search on Wednesday before darkness fell.
The search resumed with the Portland Coastguard helicopter and nine Lulworth coastguard rescue officers yesterday morning but was later called off.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the search had been stood down ‘unless any new information comes to light.’