A MAJOR search was launched last night after a car was found abandoned on a bridge over the River Itchen in Southampton.

Coastguards were alerted amid fears someone in the car might have either fallen or jumped into the water below the Cobden Bridge just before 8pm.

A coastguard search and rescue helicopter flew up and down the river, shining a powerful spotlight on the water.

The search, which also involved the Hamble lifeboat and the coastguard rescue team from Hill Head, was called off after nothing was found.

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: "We received a concern-for-welfare call from a woman reporting a car which had been abandoned on Cobden Bridge.

"A thorough search of the area was carried out but no one was found and we received no reports of anyone being injured. A review of CCTV covering the area did not show any footage of a collision.

"Enquiries are ongoing to locate the driver of the vehicle."

A spokeswoman for the Southampton-based Maritime and Coastguard Agency added: "Just before 8.10pm yesterday HM Coastguard was asked to assist Hampshire police on the Cobden Bridge, where a person was reported to be in the water.

"A full and extensive search took place and no person was found in the water."

Hillhead Coastguard Rescue Team tweeted: "Tasked to a possible person in water following a collision on Cobden Bridge.

"A full search of the area completed and no persons in distress. All units now returned to station."