Woman's battle to save boat crew

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The Independent Online
A woman who spent four hours in the sea without a lifejacket is the only survivor so far from a dredger that capsized off the Scottish coast at the weekend.

Pamela Crossan, the girlfriend of one of the crew of the Equinox, struggled ashore and raised the alarm but hopes of finding the four missing fishermen were fading last night as one body was found near the wreck and the search has been scaled down.

Miss Crossan, 28, is not seriously ill, but is being treated for hypothermia and is likely to remain in hospital for several days. The missing fishermen were named last night as Paul Blaikie, 27, her boyfriend, from Dunure, Ayrshire, Sean Ritchie, 27, the skipper, from Maybole, Ayrshire, Darren White, 19, from Mossblown, Ayrshire, and Derek Bryden, 20, from Ayr.

All five people on the 32-ft dredger jumped overboard when it capsized. Miss Crossan, who has a six-year-old daughter, managed to reach the shore at 2am yesterday, but was too exhausted to get out of the water. She was dragged to safety after her cries alerted holidaymakers at Butlin's West World Holiday Centre, near Ayr.

The wreckage of the Equinox, which capsized in calm weather without warning at 10pm on Saturday, was found off the Heads of Ayr on Scotland's west coast by the Royal Navy minehunter Cattistock yesterday and was being examined by experts last night. One body has been found near by but has not yet been identified.

The boat is believed to have gone down in about 70 feet of water while dredging for scallops or clams.

It is thought that one of the dredging cables could have have snapped on the seabed, pitching the vessel over.

Coastguards and a lifeboat will resume looking for the missing men this morning but a Coastguard spokesman said: "There is always a possibility of finding them, but the chances are diminishing."