Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy: Video: Rescuers hunted for survivors

Bay Search and Rescue all terrain transport, rescue and recovery team were called out on the night of February 5, 2004 after a phone call saying there were 20 people in the bay and the tide was coming in fast.

Pilot of the hovercraft that night was Gary Parsons who went to assist with the rescue and recovery operation. Gary said: “It was very cold and dark and your eyes became sore from staring into the darkness, wanting to see someone stood up or lost in the darkness, but that didn’t happen unfortunately.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Paul Richardson with Bay Search and Rescue's Gary Parsons.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Paul Richardson with Bay Search and Rescue's Gary Parsons.

“It was one of the biggest searches ever undertaken in the UK, which was inconceivable at the time. We spent eight or ten hours searching and searches went on for two days, but there were still two people missing. It was only eight years later that a skull was found that was later confirmed as one of the female cocklers. They had tried to take their clothes off to swim and hypothermia would have led to unconsciousness. Myself and David, the co-pilot suffered from hypothermia that night due to the elements and we were wearing the appropriate clothing.

“There was no shelter out there but it was very clear, no mist or fog. Every piece of equipment we had was being utilised. But the tide is unpredictable at best. We try and think of the positive aspects and put systems into place that can prevent that happening again.”

Bay Search and Rescue was set up in in 1999 by founder member Gary Parsons and became a charity in 2001. There are 20 operational volunteers and up to 60 across the whole of the organisation. BSAR is now a nationally recognised team which covers the whole of the UK and conducts flood rescues, snow rescues and water rescues, as well as inland rescues.