The RAF Boulmer helicopter winched four men to safety after a sinking fishing boat sparked a major rescue mission off the North East coast late yesterday afternoon.
At just before 5pm, the fishing vessel Kiroan contacted Humber Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to say that they had heard the fishing vessel Rachel Jayne IV make a mayday broadcast.
The Rachel Jayne had said that she was taking on water and sinking 26 miles east north east of the Tynemouth Piers. The crew were also reported to be abandoning the vessel to their liferaft.
Humber Coastguard immediately tasked the RAF rescue helicopter based at RAF Boulmer and the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat to the scene.
They also broadcast a mayday alert message to vessels in the area requesting them to head for the scene. A large number of fishing vessels and commercial ships responded and headed towards the sinking boat.
As the RNLI lifeboat arrived, the four crew had just been winched from the liferaft to the RAF helicopter and flown to Wansbeck General Hospital where they received medical attention.
Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station, said: “The Rachael Jayne IV apparently started sinking with very little warning.
“The crew only had time to make one brief mayday call before being forced to abandon their vessel for a liferaft.
“The RAF Sea King helicopter from RAF Boulmer quickly located the liferaft and winched the fishermen to safety before taking them to hospital.
“The RNLI lifeboat crew recovered the liferaft and considered the possibility of putting a pump onto the stricken vessel, but were unable to do so and were forced to watch her sink about 30 minutes later.
“We’re just pleased that the four fishermen were rescued and are safely ashore as this could easily have become a tragedy.”