Portland 'helicopter was vital in search for our boys'

The family and friends of the crew of a sunken Dorset fishing boat have begun a petition against the closure of the Portland search and rescue (SAR) helicopter.

The Purbeck Isle sank off Portland on May 17 and Diane Busby, who is leading the campaign, says the helicopter was ‘vital in the search’ for David McFarlane, Robert Prowse and Jack Craig.

The body of McFarlane, 35, was found a day after the boat was reported missing, but Prowse, 23, and Craig, 22, are still missing at sea.

However, hopes that they were alive on the liferaft of the 36-foot boat were dashed when the raft was discovered with the wreck 10 miles off Portland on May 19.

Ms Busby said: ‘If (the closure) goes ahead there will be no SAR between Lee-on-Solent and Falmouth, a huge area.

‘We need at least 100,000 signatures for the government to consider a debate. Please we need your support.’

Portland Coastguard is earmarked to close in 2013 or 2014 – one of nine stations that will shut as part of government plans to ‘modernise’ the service.

There was an outpouring of protest in the communities that were losing their facilities and a petition with 22,000 signatures has already been delivered to Downing Street by campaigners wanting to prevent Portland Coastguard closing.

The latest e-petition can be viewed and signed at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/30225.

Coastguard modernisation goes ahead.

Portland coastguard petition goes to No 10.

Coastguard closures announced.

Ten coastguard stations to close.