Lifeboat teams forced to abandon major rescue operation in Portsmouth Harbour

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LIFEBOAT rescue teams have been stood down after a three-hour hunt to find a man who ‘jumped overboard’ from a ferry in the Solent was unsuccessful.

Teams have been conducting an ‘intensive’ hunt for the man, who is believed to have leapt from a Wightlink ferry outside Portsmouth Harbour this morning.

Portsmouth RNLi crews pictured during the rescue operation in the harbour. Photo: Habibur Rahman

Portsmouth RNLi crews pictured during the rescue operation in the harbour. Photo: Habibur Rahman

Two RNLI lifeboats from Portsmouth joined forces with two Ministry of Defence police vessels and the Coastguard helicopter from Lee-on-the-Solent to search Portsmouth Harbour. Both Hillhead and Portsmouth coastguard rescue teams were also involved.

Slowly sweeping in a search line up and down the city’s waterway, crews found no sign of the man, who plummeted from the 10.30am St Cecilia vessel  – which was travelling between Portsmouth and Fishbourne.

At one point in the operation, a desperate plea was sent out by the coastguard, which begged for more vessels in the area to join the hunt, with a number of craft heeding the plea.

However, a spokesman from Portsmouth RNLI said the city’s volunteer rescue crews had been left ‘exhausted’ following the operation and that the difficult decision to call a halt had to be taken.

Vessels across the harbour got involved in the rescue operation. Photo: Habibur Rahman.

Vessels across the harbour got involved in the rescue operation. Photo: Habibur Rahman.

Aaron Gent, of Portsmouth RNLI, said: ‘After three hours, the chances of having a successful result are very slim.

‘The lifeboats were stood down about 20 minutes ago. They were out there for three hours searching intensively in the harbour entrance, the channels and in the side creeks.’

A spokeswoman from Wightlink Ferry said the ship’s crew deployed the vessel’s rescue boats to join the search.

She added: ‘On the 10:30 St Cecilia car ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne a passenger was seen to jump overboard, just outside Portsmouth Harbour.’

Teams spent three hours at sea hunting for the man. Photo: Habibur Rahman

Teams spent three hours at sea hunting for the man. Photo: Habibur Rahman

Coastguard rescuers stand on Round Tower in a bid to spot the man who is reported to have leapt from a passenger ferry shortly after 10.30am. Photo: Habibur Rahman

Coastguard rescuers stand on Round Tower in a bid to spot the man who is reported to have leapt from a passenger ferry shortly after 10.30am. Photo: Habibur Rahman