Hunt in English Channel for father after child dies

The search resumed this morning for a man whose toddler son died after he was found floating in the English Channel last night, the coastguard said.

The search resumed this morning for a man whose toddler son died after he was found floating in the English Channel last night, the coastguard said.

Two men in a yacht found the boy, aged about two and wearing a life jacket, in the sea off the coast of Littlehampton, West Sussex, at 6.50pm yesterday.

Medics spent two hours trying to save his life but a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokesman said the child, who has not been identified, died at Worthing Hospital, West Sussex.

The search for the boy’s father, who was thought to have been with the toddler, resumed shortly after 6am.

Sussex Police said they believe the boy’s father was with him yesterday and is the only missing person.

Ten minutes before the boy was found, Solent Coastguard had received a call from people on board another yacht reporting an empty dinghy containing personal items which was floating a mile out to sea – about 400 yards from where the toddler was found.

An MCA spokesman declined to give any more details about the personal items which were found aboard the dinghy, but said: “It wasn’t any more than we would normally expect on a small dinghy.”

After the boy was found, a search was launched for anyone else who might have been on board the dinghy.

The search on land and sea included a lifeboat, a helicopter and dogs. Sussex Police and ambulance service also joined the teams.

Solent Coastguard searched the coast between Rustington and Bognor while two Littlehampton RNLI lifeboats searched the wider area.

The MCA spokesman said the helicopter was stood down at 10pm yesterday and the shoreline teams around midnight but the lifeboat was able to continue searching until 12.30am today.

The MCA spokesman said: “There is an indication that the (boy’s) family may be from London.”

Sussex Police said this morning that they believed they had identified the boy and located his mother but a formal identification of his body had not yet taken place.

A police spokeswoman said the search this morning would be for the boy’s father.

Detective Chief Inspector Adam Hibbert of Sussex Police said: “We are in the early stages of an investigation into a tragic and unexplained death of a young boy.

“We are following up on a number of inquiries.

“The child has not yet been formally identified and his death will be treated as suspicious until the full circumstances become clear.

“We are connecting the young boy with the finding of the empty dinghy and our inquiries continue.”

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox