MYSTERY continues to surround the circumstances which led to a major emergency services operation to rescue a coasteering group on the Purbeck coast.

A man in his 40s died during the activity, which involved a group of around 10 people between Dancing Ledge and Hedbury Head.

Eight people were rescued from the water by a lifeboat and checked over by paramedics.

Two coastguard rescue teams, helicopters, paramedics and police were also involved in the incident.

Outdoor activity organiser Land & Wave was leading the coasteering group when the tragedy happened.

According to a statement on the company’s website, the man who died developed breathing difficulties and fell unconscious while in the water shortly after starting the activity.

“Despite being quickly rescued from the sea by our instructor and given emergency first aid on the shore, very sadly he could not be resuscitated,” Land & Wave said.

A statement by HM Coastguard confirmed several emergency calls had been received after members of the public and people on fishing boats spotted the group “in difficulty in the water and shouting for help”.

However, when the Daily Echo contacted Land & Wave yesterday to ask what caused the group to get into difficulty, they declined to comment.

According to their statement, “the rest of the coasteering group waited, as directed by our instructor, in a ‘safety circle’, and were picked up by the lifeboat when it arrived.”

They said they had “reviewed the incident to identify anything that could have been done that might have led to a different outcome”, adding: “The safety and well-being of customers has always been our primary concern and we are confident that our staff did everything they could in an incredibly difficult situation, rescuing the casualty and performing CPR until the emergency services arrived.

“The fact that it was not possible to save him will remain with us all for a very long time. At present we are unaware what triggered his breathing difficulties to the extent that he could not be revived, no doubt this will be confirmed in due course.”

The company also did not want to comment on the safety questions raised about coasteering following the incident. Their website states the activity involves “experienced instructors with all participants wearing wetsuits, helmets and buoyancy aids”.

Rival outdoor activities company Cumulus has praised the “brave and quick-thinking” actions of two of its senior instructors who helped prevent “further tragedy” during the incident.

“Cumulus would like to express its deepest sympathy to the people involved. This incident did not involve a client of Cumulus. Cumulus operates under its own comprehensive and vigorous safety protocols and continues to maintain its outstanding safety record,” the company said.

In 2013,

a woman died while coasteering with her brother along the Dorset coast

. A coroner ruled she had put herself in a "risky situation", while commending the actions of a brave coastguard volunteer who attempted to rescue Charlotte Furness-Smith from the cave she was trapped in.

HM Coastguard: 'Why we didn't publicise the rescue'

THE lead agency for Sunday’s rescue of the coasteering group near Dancing Ledge has explained why the incident was not made public until four days later.

A spokesperson for HM Coastguard said: “I understand that a statement was prepared on behalf of HM Coastguard but it was decided not to issue it proactively at that stage for a number of confidential operational police and HM Coastguard concerns. We would have issued a statement confirming the assets sent to the rescue if any media had called us, which is standard procedure if there are any doubts about the disadvantages to the operational work being done by the emergency services.

“On this occasion it was decided that it was not beneficial to the operation to be proactive. Our duty press officers carefully consider the sensitivity of every incident which they report on, particularly where fatalities are involved and try to be as empathetic as they can, whilst being as open and transparent as possible.”