Belfast Telegraph

Rescue-fisherman's life saver gift

A fisherman plucked to safety when his fishing boat capsized was wearing a life jacket given to him by a charity just a fortnight ago, it was claimed.

A massive air and sea rescue operation was mounted after Belfast Coastguard received a Mayday call from the man who reported that his boat was rapidly taking on water and sinking off the Co Down coast today.

In a statement the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: " The man was believed to be wearing a personal floatation 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."

The incident was reported at about 12.30pm.

The Irish Coastguard helicopter was scrambled while Lifeboat crews from Donaghadee and Portaferry along with Coastguard teams from Portaferry and Bangor rushed to the scene.

The man was spotted in the water, winched to safety and flown to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Ian Graham, watch manager at Belfast Coastguard, said it had been a major rescue.

"We had to act quickly, with limited information, when we couldn't make further contact with the boat," he said.

"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 Coastguard helicopter who took him straight to hospital."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has advised fishermen to ensure they are well prepared with life saving equipment such as communications, a life raft, distress flares and life jackets before they head out to sea.

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