TRIBUTES were paid last night to a highly-respected and popular angler who died in a fishing tragedy on the Northumberland coastline.
Barry Tweddle, 41, was plucked from the surf by a helicopter crew from RAF Boulmer just after 3am yesterday, but was pronounced dead at Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington.
He was spotted near rocks known as The Rokers off Cambois, after a major two-hour search operation involving the Sea King helicopter, five lifeboats, the police and coastguard teams.
Mr Tweddle, who lived in Cramlington, had been fishing in a competition along with fellow members of the Seaton Sluice Sea Angling Club on Sunday night.
When he failed to arrive at the weigh-in they went to the area where they knew he had been fishing and spotted his car, but could find no trace of him.
The alarm was raised at 12.42am and a full-scale sea search was launched involving two lifeboats from Blyth and one each from Newbiggin, Tynemouth and Cullercoats. It is not clear whether Mr Tweddle, a highly experienced and safety-conscious fishermen, slipped off the rocks or was swept away by a wave.
Mr Tweddle, who was married with children and had been involved in angling since he was a teenager, was a member of the Seaton Sluice club among others in the region.
He was a prolific winner at open and club angling competitions and his tragic death was described on an angling website yesterday as ‘a huge loss to North East fishing’. Last night Alan Charlton, The Journal’s angling correspondent and a friend of Mr Tweddle’s for many years, said: “Everyone is dumbstruck about it because Barry was one of the most careful anglers around. It is an absolute tragedy and no one can believe it. He was a very quiet and unassuming man, but a very good angler. He was also a very generous lad who would help anyone, and who was always prepared to pass his knowledge on to others.
“Barry was at my club, Tynemouth, when he was a junior and he was a very good friend to myself and lots of other people. I am just so shocked.”
Yesterday Northumbria Police launched an investigation into the tragedy and will compile a report for a coroner’s inquest.
A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “It is not clear how the angler ended up in the water.”
Humber coastguard watch manager, Graham Dawson, said: “This was a difficult search with a large number of resources working hard to locate the casualty. Because the man was wearing dark clothing, it was only through an intensive search that he was spotted by the coastguard rescue team.
“We do recommend that anglers wear a lifejacket when they are on, or near, the water, and if you are angling at night it is advisable to wear a high-visibility jacket.”
The tragedy comes just weeks after fisherman Jeff Nixon, 49, of Ashington, Northumberland, lost his life after he plunged 50ft down a cliff face on a stretch of coast near to Newbiggin-by-the- Sea.
He died on January 6 when a section of sandstone he had been standing on, close to the sea’s edge, collapsed beneath his feet and left him buried under tons of rock.
Shortly afterwards, fisherman George Darbyshire was killed after being washed out to sea at Horden, County Durham.