Belfast Telegraph

Heroic lifeboat crews save five from storm in 15-hour rescue

The stricken fishing vessel and its crew are rescued by the RNLI off Fanad Head
The stricken fishing vessel and its crew are rescued by the RNLI off Fanad Head

By Staff Reporter

Heroic lifeboat crews from Northern Ireland and the Republic have battled treacherous conditions and fought 50ft swells during the rescue of five fishermen who got into difficulty off the Co Donegal coast.

RNLI volunteers from Portrush, Lough Swilly and Arranmore bases spent almost 15 hours at sea in challenging storm force conditions at the weekend during the operation off Fanad Head.

The vessel issued a Mayday alert at around 2pm on Saturday.

The five men, who had been fishing for crab, sought help when the boat lost power and encountered steering difficulties while violent waves smashed the wheelhouse windows in, around 20 miles north of Fanad Head.

Lough Swilly RNLI volunteers launched their all-weather lifeboat and started their 90-minute journey to the scene some 34 nautical miles from their station.

Portrush RNLI meanwhile had 50 nautical miles to travel. Weather conditions at the time were said to be "extremely challenging", with the volunteers facing Force nine to 10 gales and sea swells of 50ft.

RNLI video footage of the rescue showed the fishing vessel being tossed about by the waves.

Arranmore RNLI was requested to launch to assist in the rescue shortly afterwards at 4pm.

Once on the scene, Lough Swilly RNLI's lifeboat crew assessed the situation and checked that the five fishing crew were safe and well. Due to the challenging conditions, however, the decision was taken to leave the crew on board their boat rather than transfer them to the lifeboat. Several attempts to hitch a tow-line proved unsuccessful until the arrival of the Arranmore lifeboat.

The fishing boat was then towed to the Lough Swilly station in a three-and-a-half-hour trip.

The fishermen were cold, tired and shaken from being rocked in the severity of the weather conditions but were otherwise in good health.

Joe Joyce of Lough Swilly RNLI Lifeboat said: "This was an extremely challenging call out for all the RNLI volunteers involved and we are delighted that the five fishermen were brought safely back to shore.

"Our lifeboats launched in challenging weather conditions on Saturday afternoon and our volunteers, 20 in all, spent almost 15 hours at sea, most of it in the hours of darkness.

"They faced gale force conditions and 50ft swells but with great courage, selflessness and teamwork they successfully met and overcame those challenges to bring the fishermen to safety.

"While challenging for our crews, this call out was a huge testament to the level of training RNLI volunteers undergo.

"Lifeboat crew members are highly trained and skilled to carry out such challenging work and thanks to the generosity of the public we are provided with the best of equipment and technology to save lives at sea."

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