LATEST: Seven crew members airlifted to safety after major operation off Cork coast

LATEST: Seven crew members airlifted to safety after major operation off Cork coast

Naval ship LE George Bernard Shaw and Ellie Adhamh. Picture: Irish Coast Guard.

LATEST: All seven crew members of a stricken fishing boat near Castletownbere have been airlifted to safety, following a nerve-racking ordeal that lasted almost two days.

A major rescue operation was coordinated by the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination centre at Valentia, who initially tasked a Coast Guard Helicopter to the scene. 

"Late this afternoon in light of deteriorating weather conditions and concern over the stability of the Irish fishing vessel Ellie Adhamh, it was decided to evacuate the seven person crew," a Coast Guard spokesperson said. "The Waterford and Shannon based Coast Guard Helicopters who were on standby of the South West coast were re-tasked to the scene by Valentia Coast Guard, who were coordinating the operation. 

"With support from the LE George Bernard Shaw and Castletownbere RNLI all weather lifeboat the crew were successfully airlifted onto R117 and brought safely to Cork. The crew are understood to be in good spirits. 

"In light of the prevailing conditions the evacuation proved to be extremely challenging and the successful outcome is testimony to the skill and professionalism of all involved."

 Initial attempts to save the vessel were unsuccessful after the alarm was raised at around 7am yesterday.

The Castletownbere-registered boat had lost power before drifting off West Cork.

A tug was brought to the scene in attempts overseen by Valentia Coastguard. However, efforts were hampered by a wave that shattered three windows in the vessel's wheelhouse.

While efforts to save the boat are ongoing, a spokesperson for Castletownbere RNLI - who were also involved in the rescue operation - said the most important thing is that lives were saved.

"The vessel was taking some water and it was decided to airlift the seven crew by helicopter," he said. "The empty vessel is still being towed by the navy and our lifeboat has been stood down and will be due back in around an hour."

He said that every rescue operation is different adding.

"There is never anything usual about these situations. This was considered the safest thing to do. The crew members safety is now guaranteed and this is what is most important. The vessel is still being towed. 

"The helicopter put down some pumps on the vessel this morning but it was taking some water so this was the best and safest option."

Naval ship LE George Bernard Shaw and Ellie Adhamh. Picture: Irish Coast Guard.
Naval ship LE George Bernard Shaw and Ellie Adhamh. Picture: Irish Coast Guard.

EARLIER: A SPOKESPERSON for the RNLI has revealed it will take up to nine hours before the crew of a stricken fishing boat near Castletownbere can be safely brought to shore.

The organisation was up against the clock to save the vessel, which has been drifting at sea for more than 24 hours.

Ellie Adhamh. Picture: Irish Coast Guard.
Ellie Adhamh. Picture: Irish Coast Guard.

A tow has now been secured on the boat, which got into difficulty approximately 70 miles West of Bantry Bay.

The response is being coordinated by the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination centre at Valentia, who initially tasked a Coast Guard Helicopter to the scene. 

The crew declined an offer to have some of the crew evacuated from the vessel but are said to be in good spirits.

Castletownbere-registered, Ellie Adhamh, had lost power before drifting off West Cork. 

Initial attempts to save the vessel were unsuccessful, after the alarm was raised at around 7am yesterday. 

A tug was brought to the scene in attempts overseen by Valentia Coastguard. However, efforts were hampered by a wave that shattered three windows in the vessel's wheelhouse.

Naval ship LE George Bernard Shaw and Ellie Adhamh. Picture: Irish Coast Guard.
Naval ship LE George Bernard Shaw and Ellie Adhamh. Picture: Irish Coast Guard.

The Irish Naval Service's LÉ George Bernard Shaw is now at the scene of the stricken trawler.

A spokesperson for the Castletownbere RNLI spoke with cautious optimism.

"The vessel is under tow from the navy and our guys are standing by in case the tow snaps," he explained. "It's going to take eight or nine hours before they get back into Castletownbere. 

"At the moment things are looking positive. The only worry is that there is a gale coming behind them. They are only moving at about five or six knots at the moment. This is as positive as it can be. 

"Hopefully, it will all work out okay. Everything seems to be much better than it was a couple of hours ago."

The vessel is expected to reach Bantry Bay later this evening, where arrangements will be made to have the vessel taken into port.

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