Owner does not know who took his boat

Rescuers spent several hours on monday night combing the River Dart for casualties after an empty 14ft open boat was discovered with its outboard running between the lower ferry slips at around 1.30AM.

RNLI lifeboats and a Search and Rescue helicopter from Chivenor searched the River Dart until 4AM as mobile Coastguard teams from Dartmouth and Berry Head searched the shoreline.

The owner of the boat, which is normally moored in Bayard’s Cove, was located on shore and made contact with anybody who might have borrowed it.

The river was swept more than once in both directions by the boats and helicopter and no casualty was found.

John Fenton, from the RNLI volunteer lifeboat, told the BBC: “The presumption is that the person got ashore and is lying low. The worst fear is that someone borrowed the boat to get to the other side of the river instead of using the ferry and came to grief. The river is in full spate at moment so anyone in the water would be struggling to swim.”

Canoeist Chris Wheeler, 46, died on the Dart on Saturday when his craft became wedged under a tree near Poundsgate.