Emergency services launched a difficult and lengthy operation to recover a man’s body which washed up on rocks at an East Devon beach.
Police are trying to identify the man, who is thought to be in his 30s or 40s, after he was recovered from Sandy Cove, east of Ladram Bay near Sidmouth.
Officers were initially called at just after 2pm on Thursday, October 3. And coastguard teams from Exmouth and Beer were also among the first to attend.
It was quickly determined that the man was dead and an operation to recover his body was launched.
The Devon Air Ambulance landed nearby but was unable to recover the body.
And a four-man Sidmouth Lifeboat crew made attempts to reach him but despite their efforts trying to back the boat into shore, due to the high tide and severity of the waves, the team were forced back.
Portland Helicopter was then requested as coastguards had hoped they would be able to recover the body, either from the cliff top, or via a helicopter winch.
But due to the weather conditions and the height of the tide, this too proved impossible.
Due to the high-risk involved, a four-man coastguard team and police officer remained watching over the man’s body to make sure he did not drift out to sea.
A team of around 18 coastguards then re-grouped at low tide around midnight to make the recovery and stretcher the man to shore.
A police spokesperson confirmed that the identity of the man is unknown to them and checks are being made against missing person data in order to identify him and his next-of-kin.
Officers are also working to find out how the man came to be in the water and how he died.
Terry Hoare of Beer Coastguard, said: “Initially we thought the lifeboat could get in far enough ashore to recover the body but the sea conditions and rocks meant they couldn’t.
“We then looked at a cliff recovery, but because of the state of the high tide and that we would be sending guys down from 60m above to it was hard to pinpoint his exact location, they would have had to have waded quite some way in waist deep water.
“It was too risky, knowing he was dead already. Had this been a live casualty this would have been completely different.
“The only other option was to wait until low tide which wasn’t until about midnight.
“Four of our crew stayed on the scene to make sure his body, which had been washed into a cave by this point, did not drift out to sea.
“Luckily this did not happen and we re-grouped again knowing it would be difficult to carry-off.
“Three of our crew had to retrieve the body from the cave as it had become wedged.
“This was a tricky and long operation due to the weather and tidal conditions.”
Mr Hoare said that the coastguard volunteers are trained to deal with difficult and sometimes traumatic incidences like this and peer-support is key among the team.
“We always treat recoveries like this with respect,” he added. “But you have to distance yourself a bit.
“Everyone who becomes a volunteer knows that they will deal with dead bodies, there is no doubt about that.
“Counselling is available for anyone that requests it, and it’s my job to keep an eye on everyone and make sure they’re okay.”
Anyone who thinks they may be able to help police identify the man should call 101, quoting log number 457 of the 3/10/13.