Five crew missing after cargo vessel sinks in Irish Sea

 

An extensive search and rescue effort is underway in the Irish Sea for five seamen who have been missing since their cargo ship sank in gale force winds early this morning.

Two of eight crew on board were spotted clinging to a liferaft and airlifted to safety by an RAF search and rescue helicopter crew from Valley in Anglesey, Wales early this morning.

The Irish Coast Guard Waterford-based Sikorsky helicopter has retrieved a third man from the water who did not survive, and his body is being flown to Wales.

Three Irish Coast Guard helicopters – Dublin, Waterford and Sligo - are involved in the continuing search for the missing five men, along with RAF Valley and Chivenor, RNLI lifeboats from Pwllheli and Porthdinllaen, and other vessels in the area.

The crew of the 81m (265 ft) carrier, the MV Swanland, issued a Mayday at about 3am.

They reported the hull was cracking and the ship was taking in water about 30 miles north west of the Welsh Lleyn peninsula. It is believed the vessel may have sunk in 15 minutes in a heavy gale. The RNLI lifeboats reported no sign of the hull, with two liferafts and some floating debris on the sea surface.

The MV Swanland was carrying 3,000 tonnes of limestone to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

In August 2010, the same ship was towed into Falmouth by the RNLI after its engines failed and it nearly ran aground off the Lizard peninsula on England’s south-west coast.

Holyhead Coastguard is co-ordinating the rescue. Weather conditions have eased since last night’s gale force eight conditions, but there is still a heavy swell. The two men who were rescued alive were wearing immersion suits with strobe lighting.

The ship was built in Holland in 1977 and is owned by a Grimsby company and flying under the Cook Islands flag.