A man, named locally as Sam Cully, has been taken to hospital after his fishing boat capsized near South Rock, near Portaferry – his life was apparently saved by the personal flotation device (PFL) that had been given to him weeks earlier.
Around 120 PFLs were given to fishermen in the area in an attempt to stop deaths at sea.
Belfast Coastguard received a Mayday call at around 12:30pm on Wednesday from the man on board the boat, who reported it was rapidly taking on water and sinking. He was picked up by RNLI staff and transported to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He is said to be safe and well.
They then sent the Irish Coast Guard Helicopter, RNLI Donaghadee Lifeboat, Portaferry RNLI Inshore Lifeboat, along with Coastguard Rescue Teams from Portaferry and Bangor, to his last reported position.
The man was spotted in the water and recovered by Portaferry Inshore Lifeboat. He was then winched onto the Coast Guard Helicopter and taken to the Royal Hospital, Belfast.
Ian Graham, Watch Manager at Belfast Coastguard, said: "We had to act quickly, with limited information, when we couldn't make further contact with the boat.
"Knowing the boat was taking on a lot of water, we sent several rescue units to make sure we could find the man as quickly as possible. Portaferry RNLI Inshore Lifeboat managed to pull the man out of the water, and he was then picked up by the Irish Coast Guard Helicopter who took him straight to hospital."
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency advises fishermen to make sure they're well prepared when heading out to sea, with as much life saving equipment on board as possible. This includes the necessary communications equipment, a life raft, distress flares and personal flotation devices, which should be worn at all times whilst on deck.
The man was believed to be wearing a personal flotation device that was provided to him two weeks ago through a joint initiative by National Charity, the Fisherman's Mission, Seafish, the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, through the European Fisheries Fund, and Asda.