A three-day search off the Norfolk coast for a 65-year-old windsurfer with ‘distinctive’ long blond hair was called off last night when his board and sail were found.
Norfolk Police said Chris Bamfield’s family have been informed and the ‘tragic’ belief now is that he is dead.
An experienced, veteran windsurfer, he vanished on Saturday afternoon at Hunstanton beach as the stormy weather worsened.
It prompted a huge search involving the RNLI, coastguard, police and Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue.
CCTV from Saturday shows Mr Bamfield parking his car close to Hunstanton Sailing Club, having travelled from his home in Middleton, near King’s Lynn and walking towards the beach carrying windsurfing equipment.
Police later found his car in the same spot, still locked and with a number of his personal belongings inside.
Veteran windsurfer Chris Bamfield, 65, was last seen heading into the sea with his surfing gear after parking his car near Hunstanton Sailing Club on Saturday afternoon. A widespread search has now been called off after rescue workers recovered his board and sail last night
Beach-goers had spotted a blond-haired windsurfer matching his description in the sea at Hunstanton that afternoon, while his board and sail were later found off the coast.
The search continued on Sunday and yesterday (Monday) but has now been abandoned.
Lou Provart, Temporary Superintendent for King’s Lynn and Breckland, said: ‘This is obviously a very distressing time for Chris’s family, who we have been in regular contact with throughout the investigation.
‘We thank them for their cooperation and patience during the investigations of the emergency, and search and rescue services.
‘Unfortunately, despite extensive local searches, Mr Bamfield hasn’t been located.
‘Dedicated search teams including dog units, HM Coastguard boats and helicopters, and Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue have been working over the weekend and into yesterday to try to find Chris, as we’ve grown increasingly concerned.
‘We are all aware of the unpredictable nature of the sea, and it’s likely that Mr Bamfield would have been exposed to the poor weather on Saturday while windsurfing.
‘Despite the best efforts of all involved in the search to find him, it is tragically most likely that Mr Bamfield has at some point got into difficulty in the water.’
The search team for Chris Bamfield involved several rescue agencies including police, the RNLI, the coastguard and search and rescue all of whom searched extensively for three days
He said extensive searches of the coastline took place involving Sutton Bridge, Wells, Skegness Coastguard Rescue Teams, Hunstanton and Wells lifeboats, search and rescue helicopter from Humberside, the Coastguard fixed wing aircraft and Norfolk Police.
Searches continued throughout the weekend and across Monday, but they were called off on Monday evening.
With rough seas because of the bad weather, and with the water temperature in the North Sea close to freezing, hopes rapidly faded on Sunday and yesterday.
Local windsurfer Neil Greentree said he had spoken to Mr Bamfield just before he went into the sea and had been helping to look for him.
‘He went out well-equipped, so we have all been out looking along the beaches and we live in hope’ he said yesterday.
‘We’re a local community, we’re a close community, we all look out for each other.
‘I think every one of us is concerned. We’ve been out at first light looking for him, we were out last night and we really do hope that he’s found.’
Emergency services were called to the resort’s Cliff Parade just before 5.20pm on Saturday after the alarm was raised when he failed to return home from a wind-surfing trip on the beach.
The area in front of the prom is popular with both wind and kite surfers.
Mr Bamfield, who was a veteran windsurfer, is sadly presumed dead as Norfolk police have since called off the search after three days and nights and said his family has been informed
Lifeboat crews from Hunstanton, Wells and Skegness, assisted by aircraft and helicopters swept out to sea as far as the entrance to The Wash, along with the Chapel St Leonards and Skegness areas of the Lincolnshire coast.
Coastguards, police and volunteers from Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue also searched beaches and harbour inlets along the estuary between King’s Lynn and Wells as the tide went out but the search was hampered by heavy rain.
Mr Bamfield is thought to have entered the water near Hunstanton Sailing Club just before 2pm on Saturday.
People were warned last night that ‘widowmaker’ waves towering up to 25ft high will batter Britain.
Coastguards urged thrill-seekers not to venture on to promenades, sea walls and rocks to grab a photo of themselves with the mountainous waves in the background.
‘These waves are potential killers – they will wash over sea defences and anyone foolish enough to be standing there will be swept away’ said one coastguard in Cornwall this morning.
‘It’s just not worth risking your life to try for that spectacular selfie.’
Whipped by winds of up to 50mph, the massive seas are likely to be here until Thursday, said the Magic Seaweed surfers’ website in Cornwall.
Coastguards fear surfers will be drawn like magnets to test their skill and bravery against the monster waves smashing into beaches like Newquay.
They said ‘only the most experienced and strongest surfers should venture out in these conditions’ and even then they should not try to ride the biggest Atlantic rollers.