SHOREHAM lifeboatmen have been praised for their efforts as part of a desperate search for two young men lost at sea.
The Shoreham RNLI all-weather lifeboat joined the search for 23-year-old Dan Nicholls, left, and Freddie Reynolds, 24, who died after being swept out in gale force winds in the early hours on Saturday.
The lifeboat was launched at 1.20am to help search for the two missing men, who had gone into the water off Brighton beach in severe weather conditions.
Shoreham lifeboat coxswain Steve Smith said: “The three metre waves and gale force winds made the search in the shoreline difficult.
“We did all we could but it wasn’t the outcome we wanted and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the two men.”
The coastguard was told at 1am that four men had gone into the sea just west of the Brighton Pier but only two had managed to get back to shore.
As well as Shoreham lifeboat, Newhaven and Brighton RNLI lifeboats were launched to join the coastguard helicopter, mobile coastguard units from Shoreham and Newhaven and Sussex police officers in the search.
Brighton lifeboat was forced to turn back as the south-west, eight to nine gale force winds and high waves meant it was beyond its operational limits.
Shoreham and Newhaven lifeboats searched east and west of the pier but were stood down at about 5am when nothing was found.
Freddie Reynolds’ body was found in Saltdean on Saturday afternoon and the body of Dan Nicholls was found on the beach at Rottingdean on Sunday morning.
Freddie had been swept out to sea as he tried to rescue his friend Dan and his family have spoken of their pride in him.
“We are devastated but also extremely proud of Freddie and the bravery he showed in trying to save Dan.
“Freddie was a very loyal and brilliant friend. He was always looking out for his friends and family and people loved to be around him. He was incredibly funny and loved a joke and a banter around the dinner table.
“His loss will leave a huge void in a lot of people’s lives. His friends and family would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the search for Freddie.”
He had been a student at Dorothy Stringer High School in Brighton and was working as a dispensary technician at Ashton’s Chemist in Brighton.
Freddie and Dan, both from Brighton, were close friends, having been to school together.
Dan’s family said: “Dan was very bright, he was quick and witty with lots of friends to whom he was close and loyal. He loved music which he both made and produced. Dan had a passion for cookery and in July last year prepared a culinary feast as part of his graduation celebrations.
“Dan was a sensitive individual who had a real enthusiasm for life. He was a gentleman who always showed concern for others and was a great ‘hugger’.
“Dan leaves his mother Wendy and his sister Martha. The family have received well wishes from a number of people and he was clearly well loved by many.
“We are immensely grateful to the police and rescue services who have been both professional and supportive in very difficult circumstances. We are also grateful for all the expressions of love and support from so many who knew Dan.
“Such a tragedy touches so many lives and our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the sad loss of Freddie and Dan.”
DCI Carwyn Hughes said it was a relief that the bodies of the two men have been recovered.
“This has been a traumatic weekend for Dan and Freddie’s friends and family. What was meant to be a bit of fun turned out so tragically with Dan snatched from the water’s edge and Freddie bravely diving in to try to save him. Our sympathies go to their families, whom we are supporting.
“I want to thank those who braved the terrible conditions to search night and day for the two men. The dedicated crews include coastal rescue services, volunteers from Sussex Search and Rescue team, seafront officers and specialist search officers.
“I also want to thank the initial police response team, my investigation team and family liaison officers who have supported the families throughout the weekend. We will now complete the investigation on behalf of the coroner.
“This is a tragic incident and I urge people to think of their safety and keep away from the sea when it is so dangerous.”
For a video from the scene click here