Helicopter joins huge nine-hour search for 'missing fisherman' in Blackpool

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A major search and rescue mission was launched for a 'missing fisherman' off the coast of Blackpool earlier.

Lifeboats from the RNLI's station on the Prom and rescuers - and a helicopter - from the Coastguard service were called to South Shore at around 2.45pm.

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

The 999 call was prompted by a passer-by discovering abandoned fishing gear behind the Sandcastle water park, a Coastguard spokesman said.

The fisherman was seen earlier on but vanished, with officials left hoping he hasn't been washed into the chilly Irish Sea.

No identification was left with the gear, the spokesman added, so rescuers did not know who they were looking for.

There was nothing to explicitly suggest the person had come to harm, other than their left behind fishing kit, however.

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

The search continued for nine hours, with rescuers braving the rough sea and rainy weather.

At around teatime, officials considered halting their extensive mission, which covered the majority of the Fylde coastline, until low tide.

But they continued until long after dark, with Coastguard rescuers only leaving the scene at around 11.30pm.

"We've had Fleetwood, Lytham and Knott End Coastguard teams, the Coastguard rescue helicopter, and the RNLI out for over nine hours now," one official involved in the search told The Gazette.

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

"[There was a] full search of the beach at low water from Anchorsholme to South Pier. Nothing found."

If the person did go into the water, there will be little hope of finding them alive, given the weather and the length of time that has now passed.

Lancashire Police said no local fishermen were reported missing, though they may live alone, a spokesman said.

No decision had been made on whether to re-launch the search in the morning, it was understood.

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

Eyes will likely turn to the shores of Cumbria, where a number of bodies have been found following disappearances on the Fylde coast.

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)

A major nine-hour search was launched off the coast off Blackpool, after a pile of fishing gear was found behind the Sandcastle water park at around 2.45pm on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (Picture: Fleetwood Coastguard)