An angler who died after being swept into the icy North Sea was yesterday named as 41-year-old Stewart Simpson.

He was fishing at the exposed South Gare, near Redcar, on Sunday afternoon in gale force conditions when it is understood he was dragged into the sea.

Lifeboat crews launched into winds of 60mph after the alarm was raised at around 5pm. A Sea King helicopter, firefighters and police also joined in the major search operation.

Mr Simpson, of Kirkstone Grove, Redcar, was later found washed-up close to the shore and given first aid.

He was airlifted by an RAF rescue helicopter to the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, but died a short time later.

The Redcar Atlantic and Teesmouth all weather lifeboats, police, ambulance, fire and coastguard crews were all involved in the search, while an RAF rescue helicopter returning from the Lake District was also diverted to the scene.

Dave Cammish, of Redcar Lifeboat, described the weather conditions as "thoroughly nasty" - with force nine gales, rain, snow, hail and high waves.

"The power of the elements is immense and so unpredictable. There is only one safe thing to do - don't go when it's like that"

Mr Cammish also praised the combined rescue effort, saying: "Everything that could be done was done and the interchange between the various agencies was marvellous.

"The Redcar Atlantic Lifeboat was first launched into severe gales and very rough seas and were quickly followed by other emergency services.

"It was a professional operation and the news that the gentleman has since died is tragic."

The popular fishing spot at the South Gare has seen a number of tragedies in recent years.

Last year, two men died when their cabin cruiser lost power and capsized off the Gare in May. While in February 2001, a 20-year-old Eston man died after being swept into the sea while walking on rocks.

And in December 1998, a double wave washed a fisherman to his death as his two friends looked on.