Search for swimmers called off

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The Independent Online

The bodies of two missing swimmers remain unfound after a major search and rescue operation off the Somerset coast was called off.

Dave Ellams, a chef, and Lee Tompkins, a receptionist, went missing on Tuesday evening after they had been drinking and waded into the sea near Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare.

More than 50 personnel, an RAF helicopter and lifeboats, were dispatched to the Bristol Channel to find the men - but to no avail and the search was called off yesterday afternoon.

Swansea Coastguard received reports that the men stripped down to their boxer shorts on the beach and entered the water while their girlfriends - Aimee Crisp and Emma Flinders - remained nearby.

Miss Crisp, Mr Ellams' partner said she felt "numb" after witnessing the two hotel workers being swept away by the powerful tide.

She said: "I don't think it's actually quite sunk in, and it won't sink in until we find the bodies."

She went on: "We just decided to go down on to the rocks, just for a few drinks and to have a laugh, and they decided to go out for a swim.

"I turned around and told them not to go out too far and I think the sea was just a bit too much for them.

"His sister and parents don't live locally. His family have gone away on holiday. I mean, how do you tell someone's parents that their son's just not here any more? It's really difficult."

The Coastguard called off the search and rescue operation after a final low-tide search yesterday afternoon. The water temperature at this time of year is about 14C (57F), the Coastguard said.