A man is missing after he ‘jumped overboard’ on a ferry just outside Portsmouth Harbour.
Emergency services launched a major rescue operation after a passenger ‘jumped’ from a Wightlink services heading to Fishbourne this morning (August 29).
The man's fellow passengers alert staff on the ferry that he had gone overboard at 10.30am.
A spokesperson from Wightlink Ferry said: ‘On the 10:30 St Cecilia car ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne a passenger was seen to jump overboard, just outside Portsmouth Harbour.
‘The crew of St Cecilia deployed the ship’s rescue boat and the Coastguard is now the lead authority on this matter, with a number of vessels assisting in the search.’
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 for the man after the authorities were alerted.
Both Hillhead and Portsmouth coastguard rescue teams were also involved.
At one point during the rescue operation today 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 the mission was called off by the RNLI after three hours.
A spokesman said Portsmouth's volunteer rescue crews had been left ‘exhausted’ following the operation and that the difficult decision to call a halt had to be taken.
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.’
Wightlink were left 'saddened’ after finding out that the search had been called off.
A spokeswoman said: ‘Wightlink staff have been saddened to learn the search for a man who jumped from the Portsmouth to Fishbourne car ferry St Cecilia this morning as it left Portsmouth Harbour has been suspended, pending further information.
‘Passengers on board the 10:30 sailing to Fishbourne, who witnessed the incident, alerted the crew.
‘The Captain of St Cecilia immediately launched the ship's rescue boat. Several other vessels joined the search.
‘This is now a missing person inquiry, led by Hampshire Police. All further inquiries should be addressed to the Constabulary.’
Vincent Winstanley was walking along the beach when he noticed a helicopter in the skies.
The 68-year-old from Southsea said: ‘I saw the helicopter and then all these boats and the strangest thing of all was the ferry that had just stopped in the middle of the Solent.
‘There was lots of commotion and boats all clearly looking for something.’
Vincent added: ‘There were coastguards on the beach with binoculars and I saw the police boats launch as well.
‘A lot of people were curious as to what was happening and concerned.’