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Divers 'lucky to escape' sinking boat as Rathlin Ferry comes to the rescue

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The Rathlin Ferry rescued a team of divers.

The Rathlin Ferry rescued a team of divers.

The Rathlin Ferry rescued a team of divers.

The skipper of the Rathlin Island Ferry has told how a group of divers had a lucky escape as their boat began to sink off the coast of Northern Ireland.

Five divers from the Republic of Ireland had been travelling together in two boats when one broke down on Sunday afternoon.

The boats then began to drift away from each other and ended up in rough waters.

The divers were part of a diving club and had spent the weekend at Rathlin Island as part of a yearly trip to the area.

Skipper of the Rathlin Island Ferry Michael Cecil heard a distress call over his radio while making one of his regular trips from Rathlin to Ballycastle around 2pm.

Having an idea where the boats may be he redirected off course and found the boats half a mile apart.

Mr Cecil said that when he discovered the boats, one had begun to fill with water which was rising rapidly and in danger of sinking.

He said that the occupants of the boats where glad to see him and that they had a "lucky escape".

"They had a radio and were able to send out a message that they were in trouble but they lost their communication after that," Mr Cecil said.

"It was rising right to the top with water and the two people on board were more than happy to get off it.

"The sea conditions were quite tricky getting alongside them and I had one crew man on the boat and one of the passengers was helping him get the boat on and we waited til they were nearly level and got the people off them.

After the divers were rescued the Portrush and Red Bay lifeboat crews quickly arrived on the scene and managed to rescue the divers' boats.

Mr Cecil said that although they were shaken up none of the divers were injured in the incident.

"I got them back to Ballycastle and the lifeboat teams brought the boats. They were a bit cold but once they came off the boat I handed them over to the coastguard team and they sorted them out with teas and coffees and fresh clothes.

"Everybody was safe and it worked out well. They were quite lucky because we had lost all communication with them, if they'd drifted a bit further they would have been very hard to find."

Belfast Telegraph