Angler Chris Newton's rescue helicopter 'took too long'

Chris Newton Image copyright Family photograph
Image caption Chris Newton, an experienced angler, was fishing off the Cornish coast in December when he fell overboard

An angler who died after falling overboard may have had a better chance of survival if a rescue helicopter had been scrambled immediately, his family has claimed.

Chris Newton, 57, was fishing off the Lizard in Cornwall when the incident happened in December.

After spending several hours in the water, he was rescued by a survey vessel, but died later in hospital.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the correct resources were deployed.

The alarm was raised by Mr Newton's friend and neighbour when his boat, the Amy Jane, failed to return to shore on time.

'Not usual practice'

According to the RNLI, the 999 call was made at about 19:00 GMT on 4 December and a rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose was scrambled at 19:56.

Mr Newton's widow, Liz, praised the actions of the the lifeboat crew and the crew of the survey vessel Triad who found her husband, but she said she wanted to know "if and why" there was a delay with the helicopter.

Steve Holyer, Mr Newton's childhood friend, raised the family's concerns over the delay with St Ives MP Andrew George, who contacted the MCA.

Sir Alan Massey, the agency's chief executive, told Mr George that tasking a helicopter was "not usual practice" for an overdue vessel.

He said the search and rescue response for Mr Newton had been reviewed and he was satisfied Falmouth Coastguard had "tasked the correct resources at the correct time".

Image copyright Jersey Evening Post
Image caption Mr Newton was the States of Jersey's former Environment Director

The MCA said any death at sea was a tragedy that had a "profound impact" on family, friends and everyone involved in the search and rescue operation.

"Our thoughts are with those affected at this difficult time," it said in a statement.

"Requesting a helicopter was considered, but it is not usual practice to do so for an overdue vessel.

"As soon as it was established we were dealing with someone in the water and we had a location, the helicopter was sent."

When the wreckage of the Amy Jane was found, Devon and Cornwall Police said the death of Mr Newton, a former environment director of the States of Jersey, was being treated as unexplained.

A report was prepared for Cornwall Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon, but it is not known whether an inquest date has been set.

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