THE discovery of a pile of clothing on the riverside in Port Talbot triggered a full-scale search and rescue operation.
But the search was called off after 90 minutes when no evidence of a body could be found — and the owner of the clothes is now believed to be alive and well in Germany.
Police, Port Talbot's inshore lifeboat, the Coastguard and an RAF helicopter all took part in Saturday's operation.
RNLI spokesman Mel Cooper said the lifeboat was called out at 4.40pm.
"A pile of clothing and personal property including a wallet, a small amount of cash and two rings were found on the side of the River Afan behind the ATS tyre depot," said Mr Cooper.
"The inshore lifeboat launched from the Afan Boats Club slipway.
"The crew searched the river, especially around where the boats were all moored, while the Coastguard searched along the riverbank.
"The docks were also checked in case he had gone there, and the RAF helicopter was called in.
"However, after 90 minutes there was no sign of anything and so Swansea Coastguard called off the search."
It is understood the man was working for a contractor involved in the new blast furnace operation at the nearby Tata steelworks.
He was believed to have been staying in a hotel.
Mr Cooper said he had since heard that the man was later traced to Berlin.
"What he is doing there and how his clothing and other property ended up on the riverbank is a mystery as far as we are concerned," he added. "It was an odd one."
A police spokesman said: "We can confirm that clothing and other personal items were found alongside the River Afan on Saturday afternoon.
"A search was conducted, involving the RNLI, Coastguard and the RAF helicopter.
"However, it later transpired that the owner was believed to have flown to Germany.
"Our inquiries are ongoing to confirm this, and to establish how the clothing was left on the riverside."
Volunteers with Porthcawl Coastguard assisted those from Port Talbot during the search operation.