Dramatic footage shows a desperate fisherman clinging to a capsized boat – nine hours after losing two of his friends.
A massive search and rescue mission is continuing after a fishing vessel capsized on Tuesday night in the middle of the English Channel as the two crewmen are still missing.
The one survivor was spotted clinging to the overturned boat early yesterday morning by a passing oil tanker – after it had capsized 17 miles off the Kent coast.
Look outs on the bridge of the tanker raised the alarm sparking the rescue operation.
The fisherman was winched on board a Coastguard air sea rescue helicopter and flown to hospital as the search was launched for his two colleagues.
The surviving crew member was able to tell rescuers their boat overturned around 11pm before the crew could get out a mayday message.
He feared the two missing crew members had been swept out to sea, or were trapped inside the wreckage of the boat.
The fisherman, whose age is unknown, was taken to the William Harvey Hospital, in Ashford, Kent by helicopter after being winched from the upside down vessel.
It is not yet known what caused the 55ft (17m) Belgian-registered boat to capsize. Sea conditions were calm at the time of the incident with clear skies.
The Department of Transport’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch is looking into the incident before it considers an investigation.
The exposed hull and propeller of the trawler could be seen in the water with most of it under the sea. Another vessel kept guard close by.
The Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Lydd, two lifeboats from Ramsgate and the Coastguard Rescue Team from Margate were all dispatched to search for the missing fisherman and the operation continues.
It is understood that Belgian authorities have sent specially trained divers and a doctor to help with the operation.
They are currently being taken by boat from Ramsgate out to the wreck which is still floating in the Channel.
Other fishing boats on both sides of the Channel are believed to be assisting in the search.
Duty Controller for UK Coastguard, Kaimes Beasley said yesterday: “One person was found on the upturned hull and rescued but we understand there were other crew on board.
“We are currently searching for these missing crew with a number of search units.”
A spokesman for the MCA added: “The search is continuing for two missing crewmen after a fishing vessel capsized off the Kent coast last night.
“One person was winched from the Belgian-flagged vessel onto the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Lydd and taken to hospital but the search continues for the other two crewmen.
“The helicopter, along with lifeboats from Ramsgate and Harwich are all continuing the search which is covering an area from Ramsgate to the mid-channel.”
John Ray, spokesman for Ramsgate lifeboat station said: “As far as we are aware it was a 17m fishing vessel that capsized at 11pm last night. But it was not spotted until this morning by a passing vessel.
“They saw one man standing on the upturned boat.
“The lifeboat was called at 7.45am.
“The rescued man was taken to hospital. We understand two others were on board at the time of the incident.
“We don’t know the cause, it was calm seas last night. But whatever happened it must have been instant.
“Two lifeboats from Ramsgate are still searching, and it could be some time.”
One rescuer said: “The conditions would have been terrible for the survivor. It was near freezing last night and he would have been exposed to the elements through the night.
“Thankfully it was relatively calm conditions. He did very well.”
The overturned vessel’s position – off the Kent coast – was last recorded on website Marine Traffic at 9.50pm on Tuesday night.