Special tributes to 'great guy' Torquay fisherman Andy Westaway
FELLOW fishermen paid a poignant tribute to a father-of-two who died when his small fishing boat sank off Torquay.
Andy Westaway, believed to be in his 40s and who lived in the Barton area of Torquay, was fishing for mackerel and herring in Babbacombe Bay on his 19ft boat the JCK when it ran into trouble on Monday night.
It is believed the vessel may have been swamped and sank in atrocious weather.
A search was launched for Mr Westaway, but his body was eventually recovered off Hope's Nose.
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Devastated members of the close-knit fishing fraternity in Torquay returned to where Mr Westaway had placed his nets later in the week.
The nets and catch were landed and sold at the Brixham fish market to start a support fund for his family. Almost £3,000 was raised at the first auction.
Clive Baker, chairman of the Torquay Fisherman's Association, was sorting Mr Westaway's fish at Torquay harbour with fellow fishermen who knew him.
He said: "We went out this morning and found his gear off Babbacombe Pier. We brought it back into Torquay to sort out then we will take the fish to Brixham to be auctioned off and the money will be given to his widow."
Mr Westaway leaves a wife and two daughters.
Only about 12 fishing families operate out of Torquay. Most of them took part in the search effort to try to find Mr Westaway.
Fellow fisherman Trevor Parnell, who has known Mr Westaway since he was boy, was out with others searching the shores near Thatcher Point.
He said the community was already rallying round to help his widow and two daughters.
He said: "I was with his father Terry looking for Andy on the shore. There was so much wind. We thought perhaps there would be some debris on the rocks, perhaps he was there too, but we couldn't find him.
"I've known Andy since he was a baby. His dad was a fisherman before him. He's been a fisherman all his life.
"I spoke to him most days. Andy was a great guy. He was a good mate."
Mr Parnell said the fishing communities in Brixham, Teignmouth, Dartmouth and beyond had been saddened by the news and his phone has been ringing constantly since the tragedy with fellow fishermen offering to help.
Mr Parnell said: "With some of the guys we're going back out to sea and we'll pick up Andy's nets and gear.
"We'll land the fish and sell it to start a fund for his family."
It is understood Mr Westaway was on his way back to Torquay to land his catch when tragedy struck.
It is not yet clear how the incident happened, but it is believed he cut loose his fishing gear in an attempt to save the boat, an open deck Brixham-registered fast liner.
Jeremy Linn, from Brixham Coastguard, believes Mr Westaway's boat may have been swamped by the foul weather.
He said: "He had been fishing for the afternoon and was coming home with a catch on board, which means he obviously had quite a lot of weight in the boat.
"It was not good weather. It was very windy. The sea state was rough so it's a strong possibility the boat was swamped in some way and sank."
Tony Jackson, a retired fisherman who skippered trawlers out of Brixham for 46 years but now lives in Torquay, was also out with the search party trying to find Mr Westaway.
He said he has known him for many years like all the fishermen out of Torquay.
He said: "I know them all. Andy was a nice man. He was a community guy.
"As fishermen we all muck in. We all help each other out if we get into difficulty. This is really tragic."
Other fishermen, who have worked alongside Mr Westaway in the Bay, also paid tribute to him and praised the emergency services.
Some of them were having a cup of tea in Chandler's Chippy, on Torquay harbour, a well known meeting place for the local fishermen.
One of them said: "We all went to help. The RNLI, the coastguards and the Navy guys were all wonderful. They did a marvellous job. We've known Andy all his life. It is a close knit community.
"This is a massive blow. It's such a loss. The sea is a tough master."
Tor Bay harbour master Kevin Mowat said the weather conditions had been 'horrendous' with south westerly force eight to 10 gales and lashing rain.
He said: "We believe he was on his way back into Torquay when something happened. We don't know yet what. With the rain and the strong winds, the search conditions were horrendous.
"The search started when Andy did not return to port. The alarm was raised by another fisherman and the coastguards were contacted."
A spokesman for Torbay RNLI lifeboat said the fishing boat had been reported missing just after 6pm on Monday.
The JCK was last seen off Thatcher Rock and the alarm was raised when the boat failed to return to harbour.
Both Torbay lifeboats were involved in the search, as were Royal Navy ships HMS Somerset and HMS St Albans.
The Torbay inshore lifeboat was searching coves and rocks between Thatcher Rock and London Bridge.
A spokeswoman for the RNLI said: "Torbay all-weather lifeboat Alec and Christina Dykes and inshore lifeboat John William Hirst, Exmouth all-weather lifeboat Margaret Jean and Teignmouth inshore lifeboat the Two Annes were all launched to assist in the search for the missing vessel, alongside two Royal Navy frigates, a tug, coastguard rescue teams and rescue helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and Portland Coastguard. The teams searched for approximately five hours until Exmouth lifeboat located the fisherman shortly before midnight.
"He was recovered by Teignmouth RNLI lifeboat crew who then returned to Brixham harbour." The Marine Accidents Investigation Branch has launched an investigation.