Updated: A FISHERMAN from York has died after being swept into the sea at a north-east estuary.

Keith Ellerby, 64, who was a manager at York Hospital, was spotted, along with a 63-year-old man, also from York, struggling against the waves at the mouth of the River Tees.

Mr Ellerby, of Hastings Close in Rawcliffe, and his friend were swept off the breakwater on the South Gare by a powerful wave.

After the alarm was raised at about 3.40pm on Monday, a nearby police helicopter rushed to the scene.

The 63-year-old managed to make it ashore, as the helicopter hovered above Mr Ellerby as he struggled in the rough sea.

A Redcar RNLI lifeboat battled 10ft-high waves to reach the stranded man and pulled him aboard where he was given CPR.

An RAF Sea King helicopter was then dispatched to the scene and winched Mr Ellerby from the boat and flew him to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, but Cleveland Police confirmed yesterday that he had died.

Mr Ellerby was food safety and quality manager at York Hospital.

Patrick Crowley, chief executive of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were shocked to hear the news of Keith’s death.

“Keith was approaching 50 years’ service in the NHS and his colleagues were looking forward to celebrating this landmark with him.

“My sympathy is, of course, with his family, and with his colleagues and friends at the hospital, who will miss him terribly.”

A Redcar Coastguard spokesman described conditions on Monday as “extremely dangerous” to be fishing in. Alerts had been broadcast all day after the region was hit by fierce winds and very rough seas.

Fellow sea anglers wrote on one online fishing forum about the severe weather conditions at the coast. One said: “South Gare is lethal in heavy seas.”

Another said: “A sad day for angling, a sadder day for his family and friends.”

A third wrote: “Sad news. I saw a Sea King flying over Middlesbrough centre very low yesterday and heading in the direction of the hospital so assume it was for that poor chap.”

Dave Cocks, of Redcar RNLI, said: “The person at the South Gare, which is on the southern side of the Tees, was seen to be washed off the breakwater by a member of the public.

“They called the police and the police helicopter happened to be close so it hovered over the gentleman until the lifeboat came.

“Once our lifeboat was able to locate the man, the helmsman manoeuvred the lifeboat in 10ft seas so that the crew could snatch the man into the boat.

“Once he was aboard, the crew immediately started administering CPR while the lifeboat was taken into more sheltered water inside the mouth of the River Tees and an RAF Sea King from RAF Leconfield came and winched him from the boat.”

The 63-year-old second man was treated for hypothermia at James Cook University Hospital and was later discharged.

A spokesman for Redcar Coastguard said they were called at 3.42pm. He added: “At this moment in time the sea conditions around here are terrible.

“There’s a strong south-east swell running at the moment. The swell where the guy was was about three metres.

“The lifeboat did a great job picking him out of the water in such a tricky situation.”

Cleveland coroners’ office confirmed that an inquest into Mr Ellerby’s death would be opened tomorrow.