Search under way after D-Day boat sinks

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The Independent Online

A search was continuing today for a man feared drowned when one of the last remaining boats to take part in D-Day sank.

The Yarmouth Navigator, a 30-metre ex-Navy minesweeper, was one of 5,000 vessels to take part in the Normandy landings in 1944. The boat was only one of seven that remained.

It started taking on water yesterday afternoon while tied to concrete pontoons at the Clovelly Bay Marina in Plymouth, Devon.

A major rescue mission was launched after four crew members went overboard at about 6pm.

Three of the crew managed to escape the freezing waters and were helped by emergency services.

But a fourth man, believed to have gone down with the vessel, has yet to be found.

Police dive teams have been assisting in the search along with a lifeboat and the coastguard.

Andy Huber, watch manager for Brixham Coastguard said: "Police divers are still on the scene. They have been there since 10am this morning.

"The harbour authority has just been moving a barge in the last hour, which was over the top of the vessel so now the divers have the freedom to go over the wreck, which is completely submerged.

"It would appear the man had gone back into the wheelhouse to collect his sextant - a navigation piece of equipment - when the vessel finally sank.

"She was built in 1943 and was moored for quite a few years in Dartmouth while having repairs.

"They were taking her around from Dartmouth to Plymouth to do some more work on her."

An online blog for a yacht management service, Shore Serve, said the Yarmouth Navigator was impounded eight years ago but was undergoing restoration.

A post on January 28 said: "We are helping to move the Yarmouth Navigator, an ex-Navy minesweeper, from its mooring in Noss marina to Plymouth this weekend.

"As some of you will know she was impounded eight years ago by Dart Harbour and since has deteriorated nearly to the point of no return.

"Luckily her new owner has spent the past six months working on the engine and although she still looks a bit scruffy she is running fine.

"Her plans for the future are yet to be decided but I know that the new owner is keen to have her working and earning her keep again as soon as possible.

"It is a very exiting project on one of the last seven surviving boats that took part in the Normandy landings."

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said the cause of the sinking is not yet known.

The Yarmouth Navigator was commissioned in 1943 and was a convoy escort before taking part in Operation Neptune at the D-Day landings.

After nearly 50 years of service, she was offered for disposal in 1991 but subsequently sold to owners for restoration.

The vessel was being moved to a new mooring after a campaign to save it that lasted several years.