A holidaymaker has described the moment they realised ‘something dreadful’ had happened when a man was swept out to sea by a wave while walking along a beach.

A major search of the west Dorset coast took place at the weekend after the man, aged in his 20s, went missing in the water near Freshwater, Burton Bradstock, on Sunday.

It was reported that he was walking along the beach with a woman when a wave swept them out to sea at about 3pm.

The woman made it back to shore and was treated by the ambulance service while a major search was launched for the missing man.

Coastguards from West Bay and Lyme Regis, the RNLI and police, assisted by the NPAS and coastguard helicopters, scoured the area throughout the day.

South Western Ambulance Service also sent seven resources to the scene.

An eyewitness said she saw a number of emergency vehicles in the area and a heavy police presence, while a helicopter was heard over Bridport during the night.

Passers-by on the coast road also reported seeing crowds of people on the beach during the afternoon.

At about 9.30pm that night, police stated efforts would continue the following day. On Monday morning, a body, believed to be that of the missing man, was found at Hive beach.

Police said his family had been informed and the coroner notified.

Holidaymaker Jacky Parkin, from Bridgwater in Somerset, was staying at Freshwater while emergency ‘relentlessly’ searched for the man.

“From my window, I could see the rescuers at work,” she said. “I knew it was something dreadful by the fact they worked until late searching the coastline.

“They worked along the coast, relentlessly searching. I have to say; we are so lucky to have such dedicated people in the services.

“I’m so sorry for all concerned. It’s a terrible thing to have happened.”

Hundreds of messages of condolence have since been posted on social media, with many paying their respects to the man and the emergency services.

A spokesman for West Bay Coastguard Rescue Team said: “Sadly, it was not a positive outcome.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends during this most difficult time.”