NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Rescued Orkney diver 'could have been found sooner'

Hamish Mowatt
Image caption Hamish Mowatt said he phoned the coastguard three times telling them where to look for the diver

A diver rescued in the Pentland Firth could have been found much sooner if local advice had been followed, a fisherman has claimed.

Hamish Mowatt said he phoned the coastguard three times, telling them they were searching in the wrong place.

The diver was rescued on Thursday after spending 11 hours in the water.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the search took into account information from planning software as well as local knowledge.

Image copyright Richard Smith
Image caption The RNLI released a map showing the track followed by its Thurso lifeboat during the search operation

The diver, 40-year old Ivan Doychev from Bulgaria, was reported missing by the dive boat "Fair Morn" just before 17:30 on Wednesday.

He was eventually rescued by a passing sail training vessel after spending more than 11 hours in the water.

Mr Mowatt, from South Ronaldsay, has fished in the Pentland Firth for more than 40 years.

He told BBC Radio Orkney that the diver had been found "despite the search operation not because of it".

But the MCA said: "Both the Coastguard helicopter from Sumburgh and the Thurso Lifeboat covered the area in which the diver was later found."

'Wrong direction'

Mr Mowatt said resources were redeployed to the wrong area after he had advised search teams that the diver would be found between Duncansby Head and the Pentland Skerries.

"Everybody went west, when the man was going east. It's that simple.

"The guy was lucky. He was found. But he could have been found at seven o'clock at night.

"I told the Thurso lifeboat where to go, and they were told by Shetland Coastuard 'No. Turn around. Go west.'"

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption Ivan Doychev said the lights from searching ships and helicopters gave him hope

In a statement, the agency said it provided "a consistent approach to search and rescue operations regardless of the geographical location of its co-ordination centres".

The MCA said its policy was "to review all incidents as a matter of routine to ensure it remains an effective and efficient emergency service".

Ivan Doychev said he was kept going by the sight of helicopters and boats searching for him as he drifted in the Pentland Firth.

He said he hopes to go back to his work as a scallop diver in Orkney this weekend despite his ordeal.

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