Search for boy, 15, lost in loch is abandoned

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The Independent Online

Rescuers called off the search yesterday for a 15-year-old boy whose father and brother drowned when their motorboat capsized in sheltered waters in the west of Scotland. They said there was little hope he would be alive.

Steven Ridley was with his father, Shaun, 37, brother Michael, 12, and two others who were pulled from Loch Ryan near Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, on Saturday night. The crew of the yacht Catalina alerted coastguards after picking up Brian Ridley, 61, the father of Shaun, and family friend Harvey Haughton, 58, at Finnart Bay, near the entrance to the sea loch on the usually busy main ferry route between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The men, who were wearing lifejackets but no survival clothing, told rescuers there were three more people in the water. Clyde Coastguard started a search and, five hours after the capsize, Shaun and Michael Ridley were found. They were dead on arrival at hospital.

The boy's mother, Pauline, arrived in Stranraer yesterday with other relatives. A member of a police family liaison was helping them. Mrs Ridley had stayed at home to look after their two daughters, Sharon and Kelly, while her husband took their two sons, his father and Mr Haughton on the fishing expedition.

A statement issued by the family read: "It's with deepest regret that a family fishing trip which started gloriously has ended in such a tragedy.

"Shaun has bravely given up his own life attempting to save his much-loved sons, Steven and Michael. This tragedy has occurred despite them all wearing life jackets. At this time Steven is still missing and all family and friends would appreciate privacy at this time to come to terms with their loss."

Seven coastguard teams spent yesterday searching the loch and surrounding area for Steven, although they admitted there was little chance of finding him alive. They had hoped that the boy, said to be wearing a fleece jacket, track-suit bottoms and a lifejacket, had managed to clamber ashore.

They said that if he was in the water longer than a few hours there was almost no chance of rescue. The group had been fishing on the loch on the 16ft motorboat the family is thought to own, when, coastguards believe, a gust of wind hit them on their way back to shore. Although the weather was relatively good on Saturday evening, coastguards said the sea was a little choppy.

Mr Ridley senior and his friend Mr Haughton managed to cling to the boat but the two boys and their father were washed away. The upturned hull of their boat was found by the Stranraer inshore lifeboat, with its stern 3ft under water.

Yesterday a coastguard spokesman said the bodies of Shaun Ridley and his son Michael had been recovered by a Portpatrick lifeboat about half a mile from where the first two men were rescued. Coastguard teams from from Drummore, Port Patrick, Stranraer, Ballantrae, Girvan, Ayr and Isle of Whithorn had mounted the sea searching. Other teams intend to continue to patrol the coastline for several days.

"Conditions have been particularly good and we have been able to see debris floating on the water, but unfortunately no sign of Steven," John Griffiths, the Clyde Coastguard district controller, said. "We don't know what happened ... but this will be the subject of an inquiry by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch."

Yesterday prayers were being said for the Ridley family at two churches close to where they lived in Westleigh, Greater Manchester, as villagers waited anxiously for news on the search. The family, who have lived in the area for several generations, were known among the congregations of both the Anglican and Methodist churches.

"It is a very sad thing to have happened and we will be praying for the family this morning," Ken Sharples, who took the service at Westleigh Methodist Church, said. "Some of the congregation obviously know the family quite well, going back many years."

¿ A 20-year-old man drowned while swimming at a popular beauty spot close to where the Scottish Open Golf Tournament is being played at Loch Lomond. Police recovered the Glasgow man's body yesterday near Luss Pier, Luss, on the banks of Loch Lomond, after his friends raised the alarm. A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said the death highlighted the dangers of swimming in open water where no lifeguards were present.

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