TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved fisherman who died on Sunday after his creel boat was found off Torness.

Lifeboat crews from Dunbar and St Abbs, a rescue helicopter from Prestwick and local fishing vessels joined the search for Peter Gray, of Cove, south-east of Dunbar.

The 64-year-old dad-of-two and grandfather-of-two was located in the sea by the rescue helicopter at about 6pm and taken to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

An investigation has now been launched by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, which probes accidents in UK waters. Funeral arrangements have still to be confirmed.

His wife of 42 years Betty was very grateful to all the fishermen and volunteers who had joined the search for her husband. She told the Courier “he loved a holiday in the sun” but, as a fisherman, had “no time for hobbies”.

The Rev Dr Suzie Fletcher, minister of Dunglass, spoke with Mr Gray’s family on Tuesday.

She said: “Peter Gray was one of the fifth generation of his family to fish from Cove, and had been out to sea doing the job he loved day in and day out for decades. His loss has left his family, the local community, many circles of fishermen and countless friends in shock.

“He was a kind man who was always willing to help out with anything, and loved nothing more than taking his dog for a walk in the rain or going to sunnier places for his holidays.

“His wife and children are very grateful to all the fishermen who joined the RNLI and Coastguard in the search.”

And she added: “The Gray family have been part of the fabric of the Cove and Cockburnspath community for generations, but the ripples of this tragic news will be felt much more widely.”

UK Coastguard called on Dunbar’s RNLI volunteers to join the search at about 4.35pm after the creel boat St Peter, which is set up for solo fishing, was found unmanned about a mile north-east of Torness.

Both the all-weather (ALB) and inshore (ILB) lifeboats began extensive searches of the area at 5.05pm and were joined by colleagues from St Abbs, as well as the rescue helicopter and local fishing vessels.

The crew of the ALB recovered the vessel and brought it to Dunbar Harbour, where police began conducting inquiries into the incident.

A spokesman for Dunbar Lifeboat said: “Our deepest condolences go to the family and friends of the person involved. We would also like to thank the fishing vessels who helped enormously with the search operation.”

Dunbar ward councillor Norman Hampshire previously lived at Cove. The councillor said it was “a tragedy” which would “really affect a lot of families”.

He added: “The fishing community is a very tight-knit community and this will have an impact on all fishermen.They all know the job they do is a dangerous job and they are at risk every time they go out to sea. It is an absolute tragedy this has happened.”

Ward colleague Paul McLennan told the Courier: “It is really sad.

“I knew Peter a wee bit but I worked beside his wife Betty in the Bank of Scotland and knew her really well.

“It is tragic, it is really tragic.

“I think it is the first death in the fishing industry here for quite a while and Peter was a really experienced fisherman. My thoughts are with Betty and the family.”

Ward councillor Sue Kempson added: “I would very much like to express my deep sorrow and shock at the sad news.

“My thoughts are very much with the family and the whole community. The rescue services had clearly done a most professional and difficult task.

“The lack of a successful end to their search must have been most distressing. A very sad time.”

Graham Adams, vice-chairman of Dunbar Community Council, also offered his condolences.

He said: “It is a horrible thing and a shame for a fishing town to have that happen. It’s a huge tragedy and our thoughts go to the family of the person involved.”

Alasdair Swan, chairman of Dunbar Harbour Trust, said: “Dunbar Harbour Trust were so sad to hear the news and wishes to pass on its condolences to his family.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 6.05pm on Sunday, police were called to a report of a man having fallen into the sea from a fishing vessel near Torness.

“Emergency services attended and a 64-year-old man was recovered from the sea. He was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he was pronounced dead.

“There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”