Five saved in Lough Neagh drama 'lucky to be alive'
Five men rescued from Lough Neagh in an early morning operation carried out in darkness are "lucky to be alive".
They had been lost for hours on the lough without any navigation or distress equipment.
A rescue team found the men, believed to be in their 40s and 50s, cold and disorientated at 4am yesterday after a dramatic search.
The men, who are from the Ballyginniff area of Co Antrim, had left the Battery Harbour in Ardboe, Co Tyrone, at 1.30am yesterday after attending a local festival.
They set off on what should have been a 25-minute journey across the lough. However, an emergency call was made around two hours later by one of the men.
A police plane spotted them in the water and two lifeboats and a Coastguard boat were launched.
They were found in Antrim Bay and were towed to shore at Ballyginniff. Paul Quinn, a crew member of the Lough Neagh rescue team, said the men were lucky to have escaped injury.
"We got a call at around 3.50am from the Coastguard who said that five men on a 'rib' (rigid inflatable boat) had become disorientated and were unsure of their position," he said.
"We made our way across the lough while the PSNI had been tasked by the Coastguard and they were discovered at Kettle Bottom (Island)."
Mr Quinn said the men were found soon after.
"There were no life jackets, no working navigation equipment or distress signals," he said.
"The men were in good form, but all of them were cold so we were keeping a close eye for any signs of hypothermia.
"If they didn't have a mobile with them it could have been a very different ending – they're very lucky to be alive.
"A journey that should have taken 25 minutes ended up in a rescue operation two hours later."
Jude McNeice from the Coastguard said anyone sailing out on the lough should ensure they have suitable equipment on board.
"Our advice is to ensure you have proper navigation equipment or have other means of being located like distress flares," she said.