Hunt for five missing crew of sunken Swanland halts

The RAF has released footage from the search and rescue mission

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An air-and-sea search for five men missing from a sunken cargo carrier off the coast of north Wales has been called off for the night.

Holyhead coastguard said a decision would be made later whether to resume the Irish Sea search for the crew members on Monday morning.

Two crew of the Swanland were rescued by helicopter early on Sunday. A third man's body was found later.

Prince William was co-pilot of the first rescue helicopter on the scene.

Swanland The Swanland came close to grounding on rocks off Cornwall last year

One of the two survivors told coastguards the 81m (265ft) ship rolled over and broke in two after being hit by an "enormous" wave.

Helicopters and lifeboats have scoured the Irish Sea off the Lleyn peninsula since the alert at 02:00 GMT on Sunday.

Holyhead coastguard manager Ray Carson said a total of six search and rescue four helicopters, three RNLI all-weather lifeboats, two inshore lifeboats, four coastguard teams, a spotter plane and two merchant vessels were involved in the search.

An Irish navy vessel was en route to the search area when it was stood down, he said.

Start Quote

She rolled and broke her back and disappeared from the radar at 2.20am”

End Quote Ray Carson Holyhead coastguard

Mr Carson said the crew had reported the carrier, with 3,000 tonnes of limestone onboard, was struggling in adverse conditions, including gale force winds.

But there was no indication the ship was taking in water at this stage, he said, although five of the crew were on deck.

"At that stage they were experiencing dreadful weather conditions," he said.

"They had five people on deck at the time wearing survival suits and one of the survivors told us that there was what he described as an enormous wave that rolled the ship.

"She rolled and broke her back and disappeared from the radar at 2.20am."

The two rescued crew were taken to hospital in Bangor, Gwynedd.

One liferaft was found near Bardsey island off the Lleyn peninsula, but it was empty.

Prince William, who is a helicopter co-pilot at RAF Valley, took part in the rescue 30 miles north-west off the Lleyn peninsula.

RAF Valley confirmed the prince, serving as Flt Lt William Wales, was the co-pilot of the helicopter which rescued the two survivors.

Rocks

Irish rescue helicopters also took part in the operation as well as a spotter plane.

The RNLI launched the Porthdinllaen and Pwllheli lifeboats in the early hours. Holyhead's all-weather lifeboat joined the search in the afternoon.

The Swanland, a regular visitor to the area, was carrying rock that was loaded at the Llanddulas jetty near Abergele and was en route to Cowes, Isle of Wight.

In August 2010, she came close to grounding on rocks off the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall after he engines failed.

According to one shipspotting website, the vessel was built in the Netherlands and is owned by a company, Torbulk, in Grimsby.

Managers, who have met at the office to discuss the incident, told the BBC they would not be making any comment until later on Sunday.

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