A major search and rescue operation was carried out off the coast of Blyth after an unmanned dinghy was spotted by a passing vessel.
Crews from Newbiggin and Tynemouth RNLI lifeboats, along with a RAF helicopter and land-based teams, took part in a five hour search which was eventually called off by the Coastguard.
The alarm was raised out at around 6.15pm on Monday after a 29m Dutch sailing vessel came across the 2m dinghy about 15 miles east of Blyth.
The dinghy reportedly had freshly caught fish, personal belongings and a handheld marine VHF radio on board but no sign of any occupant.
The lifeboat crews were joined by a RAF search and rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer to search the area, while members of Tynemouth and South Shields Volunteer Life Brigades and Blyth and Sunderland Coastguard Rescue Teams searched the land for the likely launching site of the vessel and any car or trailer.
Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat, which had been on a training exercise off Cullercoats, was first on scene and recovered the lifeboat before beginning an extensive search of the area, which was directed by Humber Coastguard.
After a five-hour search, all teams stood down after the RAF helicopter made a final search sweep using a heat-seeking camera and the Coastguard were satisfied there was no possibility of finding any potential survivor.
Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station, said: “A Dutch sailing vessel found an empty dinghy, 15 miles out to sea from the Northumberland coast.
“There was clear evidence that someone had recently been on the vessel and it had to be assumed as a worst case scenario that they had fallen overboard, resulting in an intensive and prolonged search for any possible casualties, with a similar search carried out onshore by the Coastguard teams to see if there was a location from where the boat had been launched or drifted from, such as a car and trailer near a slipway or beach launching area.
“After five hours the search was called off when watch officers at Humber Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, who coordinated the search and rescue effort, were satisfied that every avenue had been exhausted in the search for any possible casualty.
“We hope that no misfortune has come to the boat’s owner.
“If anyone has any information at all regarding the dinghy they are asked to contact Humber Coastguard or their local police.”