Two divers rescued after an extensive lifeboat and helicopter search have said they are proud to be part of such a caring community.

Bob Lymer, of Trefin and Steve Douglas, from Croesgoch, were reported missing last Thursday after a dive on the wreck of the Empire Panther — a Second World War cargo ship four miles off Strumble Head.

During the 53-metre dive the men realised they were following a diving line not attached to their boat and had to rise to the surface by free ascent.

After surfacing they were separated for ten minutes before locating each other, but there was no sign of the boat.

“The current was fast and we were drifting out to sea,” said Bob.

“We tied ourselves together with a safety rope and tried to swim diagonally with the current as opposed to against it.”

He admitted they had never been in that situation before and things got worse when Bob’s distress signal device failed to work.

They resigned themselves to a lengthy spell in the water and kept warm by swimming and resting in intervals.

“We knew we had to stay calm and not panic,” said Steve. “We thought we were going to be there overnight and we were prepared.”

Bob added that they were aware of where they were and the direction to head in once the tide turned.

The pair, who have more than 30 years’ diving experience, had set diving lines and buoys at the site the weekend before the dive.

Bob’s stepson, Chris Garrett, was on board the boat to monitor the line during the dive.

“No-one made any mistakes it was just one of those things. There was nothing anyone could have done,” said Bob.

When they failed to resurface Chris alerted rescue services and by 6pm, RNLI lifeboats had been launched from Fishguard and St Davids, along with a rescue helicopter from RAF Chivenor.

Several people joined the search in boats, including Porthgain residents Lee Clarke and Matthew Blakiston. Concerned locals gathered on the harbour with Bob and Steve’s families.

Bob said: “When we saw the lifeboat it was a relief, because we knew Chris must be OK. At that point we still didn’t know what had happened earlier, but we knew the teams couldn’t have arrived that quickly unless Chris had called the coastguard.”

The divers then endured a frustrating hour as although they could see the lifeboats, the rescue teams were too far inshore to be able to see them.

After spotting the helicopter they began waving fluorescent flags and shining torches and they were picked up some nine miles from where they had entered the water.

The pair were airlifted to Withybush Hospital where they underwent routine blood pressure checks.

“Everyone in the Accident and Emergency department did a double take when we walked in with our diving gear on. I said we were there in fancy dress,” said Bob.

Both Bob and Steve are grateful to everyone who took part in the search.

“The scale and efficiency of the operation was awe-inspiring and humbling,” they said.

“We were overwhelmed by the selfless involvement of so many local residents, who either took boats or provided valuable assistance on shore.

“This was community spirit and regard for life at its very best.”