Charity Swim Sparks Massive Search

A charity is to review its events procedures after fundraisers sparked a major search and rescue operation.

Three lifeboats and a helicopter were called out when nine swimmers were reported missing at the Bournemouth Pier to Pier swim today.

Emergency crews and an onshore search team spent two hours looking for the swimmers before the search was ended.

By then eight were confirmed to have gone home and the ninth was also ''believed to be safe''.

Coastguards said they were happy about the safety of the ninth swimmer, whom had taken part alongside her partner and he had checked in with organisers.

Participants had been swimming in the 1.4 mile stretch of sea between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

An estimated 1,000 people took part in the annual swim, which was split into two separate groups. The first were scheduled to finish by midday and the second two hours later.

Organisers alerted the coastguard shortly after 2pm when a head count showed some people were missing.

Andy Coles, BHF event organiser, said several participants failed to check in with organisers at the end of the event.

''We immediately alerted the emergency services as a precautionary part of our safety protocol and subsequently Portland Coastguard initiated a search of the swim area and adjoining sea,'' he added.

''After a full search utilising three lifeboats, a Coastguard helicopter and a Coastguard rescue team, they were, in liaison with the event organisers, confident that all participants had finished the event.

''We also immediately phoned the swimmers and most had simply forgotten to check in and gone home without notifying event organisers. We are waiting for confirmation from one last participant who swam with a partner we already know to have completed the event.

''We will be reviewing the check in procedure with the event organisers, and thank all of the event swimmers who today raised much needed funds to fight heart disease.''