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Rescued sailors lucky to be alive

PUBLISHED: 18:25 28 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:58 16 September 2010

THREE people, including a teenage boy, were branded lucky to be alive after they were plucked from the North Sea by lifeboatmen when a fishing boat sank on Monday morning.

THREE people, including a teenage boy, were branded lucky to be alive after they were plucked from the North Sea by lifeboatmen when a fishing boat sank on Monday morning.

The 36ft clinker-built wooden boat, The Viking, disappeared beneath the waves 12 miles off Happisburgh as the Caister independent lifeboat arrived on scene - and while the three were hauled from the water, the lifeboat crew were unable to save a dog that had been inside the boat.

Lifeboat chairman Paul Garrod, who was one of the four-strong crew on the Bernard Matthews II, led by coxswain Paul Williams, said: “They are certainly lucky to be alive. If we had been another two minutes getting there, there would have been three dead people in the water.

“The coxswain has been on the boat 34 years and he said he has never seen a rescue like it.”

While the three were hauled from the water, the lifeboat crew were unable to save a dog that had been on board.

It is believed the owner of the Lowestoft-based boat and his stepson were escorting a diver on a trip to explore a wreck off Happisburgh.

During rough weather on Sunday night, the vessel lost power including radio communications and began to take on water.

As the risk of sinking grew in the 3m swell, the vessel was able to contact Lowestoft harbour by mobile phone and Yarmouth coastguards mobilised Caister lifeboat and the RNLI boat from Happisburgh at about 8.20am.

The superior speed of the jet-propelled Dutch-built boat from Caister enabled it to get on scene first.

Caister crew member Jason Delf said: “If we had been 30 seconds later we would not have seen the boat go down and would not have been able to locate the people in the water.”

They found the father and son clinging to each other in the water, the father not even having had time to put on a lifejacket before the boat went down.

The three were brought back to Gorleston Lifeboat Station where paramedics checked them over before an ambulance took them to James Paget University Hospital to be treated for cold and shock.

Praising the Caister crew, coastguard watch manager Christine Martyn said: “With a swell like that, finding the people in the water would have been like looking for a ball in a very lumpy mattress.”

She said the combined effect of the sea temperature and the shock of going into the water would have quickly had life-threatening consequences if they had not been rescued so swiftly.

Happisburgh lifeboat's senior helm Cubitt Siely said: “There were heavy seas on the way out and when we got there we conducted a search of the scene,” said Mr Siely.

“We were then stood down and returned home. Unfortunately the conditions had changed so we had heavy seas on the way back as well.”

Gary Horton, assistant harbourmaster in Lowestoft, praised the good work done by the duty bridge operator - which may have saved the crew's lives.

As the Viking had lost all power, he said, the boat's only way of contacting anyone was a mobile phone.

“We received a call at around 8.10am but the line was very poor and it was only because the bridge operator persevered and managed to get details of The Viking's location that he was then able to relay that to the Coastguard who co-ordinated the rescue. It was very good work.”

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