Dorset

Diver rescue 'delayed' after Portland Coastguard helicopter axed

Ian Taylor
Image caption Skipper Ian Taylor said he had always feared the service being moved to Lee-on-Solent would lead to delays

A boat skipper interrupted an event for an axed coastguard helicopter claiming its removal from service led to delays in rescuing an injured diver.

Ian Taylor stopped proceedings for the Portland helicopter, which was retired on Friday after 22 years.

The helicopter has been axed in favour of a Hampshire-based regional service.

The coastguard said the diver was rescued within 40 minutes, but Mr Taylor said the wait for the rescue earlier was "disgraceful".

He interrupted a memorial service, which included the unveiling of a commemorative stone, at Portland harbour.

He apologised and was applauded by those who had gathered for the service as he left.

Image copyright Stefan Czapski
Image caption More than 100,000 people signed a petition in 2014 calling for the Portland helicopter to be retained

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the "unwell diver" - a man - was airlifted to hospital but did not give any further details of his condition.

"For a significant proportion of their time, coastguard helicopters are not on the ground at their base but are out conducting their duties around the UK," a spokeswoman added.

"When an incident occurs, the UK Coastguard tasks the most appropriate resources, be they lifeboats, coastguard rescue teams, helicopters or other local resources."

The memorial stone bears the names of all 46 former crew and staff.

Image caption The memorial stone was unveiled close to the MCA hangar on the walkway between the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy and Portland Castle

The decision to retire the service comes despite a campaign and 100,000-signature petition to save it.

It is part of a new restructuring of the MCA that will see a fleet of search and rescue helicopters operate from 10 bases around the UK.

The MCA said it was 15 minutes flying time from Lee-on-Solent, where the new Leonardo AW189 helicopter is based, to Portland.

Heli Operations saved the Portland helicopter base at Osprey Quay last year and it will now be used as a refuelling facility.

Image caption The stone is dedicated to all 48 former crew members and staff

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites