Heroic father relives rescue of Northumberland fishermen

Tom Lillico.
Tom Lillico.

A heroic father and son helped rescue two fishermen whose boat had sunk off the coast of Amble, pulling one from the sea and alerting crews to the other.

Tom Lillico was aboard his vessel, Boy Liam, with son Jason, 38, when he noticed something in the water yesterday morning, near Coquet Island.

The rescuers' boat, Boy Liam. Picture by John Tuttiett

The rescuers' boat, Boy Liam. Picture by John Tuttiett

The 59-year-old originally thought it was a seal, but soon realised it was a man clinging onto a buoy.

It sparked a dramatic rescue mission. Fishermen Tom and Jason, from Red Row, pulled the stricken man from the water at about 9.15am and discovered that another person was unaccounted for, following the sinking of the vessel, Rising Sun.

The Lillicos contacted the Maritime and Coastguard Agency – which had originally been alerted to the incident by a personal locator beacon at 8.40am – to say they had collected one of the men, but there was another still missing.

Both lifeboats from Amble and the town’s Coastguard team were involved in the search for the other man, along with Seahouses and Newbiggin lifeboats. The new Search and Rescue helicopter was launched from Humberside Airport.
The second fisherman was later found on Coquet Island.
Recounting the incident, Tom said: “We were about a quarter-of-a-mile off the south side of Coquet Island. As I went to pick up a fleet of pots, something caught my eye.
“It was about 50 or 60 yards away and at first, I thought it was a seal playing with one of the buoys, but it wasn’t until I had another look that I saw his head popping out of the water.
“Jason threw him a rope. He couldn’t move, but he was able to grip onto it and we pulled him onto the boat. He was very lucky.
“He couldn’t walk and could barely really talk and by the looks of him, he wouldn’t have lasted much longer.
“I put a coat and hat on him and gave him a Bovril, but he couldn’t swallow it – he was just being sick.
“He couldn’t tell us what happened, but all he could say was that he had been in the water for about an hour-and-a-half and there was another man in the water.
“I contacted Humber Coastguard and explained the situation. I did three or four searches for the other lad, but couldn’t see any debris or anything. The lad on my boat had hypothermia and I thought he didn’t have long, so I thought that we had better get him back to shore.
“He was lucky. Originally, we were going to collect the pots near to Amble first, but because there was supposed to be a lot of bad weather, we decided to go down to Cresswell first and then did the pots off Amble last. That is how we came to pick him up.”
Tom says that, as he turned the Boy Liam around, he spotted somebody on Coquet Island and alerted the RNLI to head in that direction.
The Lillicos took the first fisherman back to the harbour at Amble and he was taken to the new hospital in Cramlington by land ambulance. A spokeswoman for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that he was later discharged.
The man on Coquet Island was airlifted to the RVI in Newcastle, but the Gazette was unable to receive a condition check from Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Both men were hypothermic following their time in the water.
Amble RNLI coxswain John Connell said it’s thought the second man managed to swim the short distance to Coquet Island after Rising Sun overturned.
He said: “These are two extremely lucky fishermen. The water is very cold and they were in the water some time, but they did what they could to look after themselves until help arrived.
“We are all very relieved that the two fishermen were found and we wish them well for a speedy recovery following their ordeal.”
The Rising Sun has been described as a 21ft lobster boat which was based at Amble.

Coquet Island. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Coquet Island. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Amble lifeboat coxswain John Connell. Picture by John Tuttiett

Amble lifeboat coxswain John Connell. Picture by John Tuttiett