Sinking Newlyn fishing boat drifts into traffic zone

A fisheries protection vessel has been used to protect shipping from a damaged gill netter off the Isles of Scilly.

Five fishermen had to be rescued when the Newlyn-based Ben My Chree started taking on water just after midnight.

The 15m (49ft) vessel is still partially afloat, but drifted into the busy southern lane of the traffic separation zone.

Cornwall fisheries protection vessel St Piran managed to secure a line to tow the semi-sunken vessel out of the zone.

'Challenging rescue'

The area separates large vessels rounding Land's End and the Isles of Scilly in opposite directions.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency told BBC News that once the vessel was clear and presented no danger to other shipping, the situation would be reassessed.

Four of the Ben My Chree's crew members were winched to safety by an RNAS Culdrose helicopter, while one man was picked up by St Mary's lifeboat. No-one was hurt.

The helicopter crew from 771 squadron initially tried to winch a pump down to the fishing boat but the pilot, Lt Cdr Jerry Barnbrook, said the situation became too serious.

"The boat was quickly going under, so a decision had to be made to evacuate the crew onboard," he said.

"It was quite a challenging rescue because the boat was moving around a lot - although it was good weather, the swell was causing dangerous sea conditions."

The vessel's skipper, Steven Hicks, said there were initial problems with the boat's bilge pump when it was setting out and but another pump worked for a while.

He started heading for land when the boat "started taking on more water than the crew could get out".

Image caption The 15m-long Ben My Chree is based in Newlyn

Mr Hicks said the situation got "a little bit hairy" when the helicopter tried to winch down the pump and that was when the decision was made to abandon it.

Mr Hicks said he believed there was little hope of salvaging the Ben My Chree and that he was never setting to sea again.

He said: "She's going to be in an awful state inside. The engine and the electrics will be ruined.

"That's the second time I've been rescued. I'm 56 years old, that's enough for me."

He said the rescue operation also showed why local rescue and coastguard services needed to be maintained.

Falmouth Coastguard faces moving to daytime cover under plans being considered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Mr Hicks said: "It just proves we need the coastguards and the helicopters. We're right on the tip of England. We do need this back-up."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites