Mayday rescue

By in Emergency Services

THREE RNLI lifeboats and a helicopter were involved in a four-hour rescue operation off the West Somerset coast after responding to a mayday on Saturday night (April 15).

The distress call was put out by the crew of an ex-military landing craft about a mile east of Watchet.

The vessel, which is used to ferry construction materials into the Hinkley Point C construction site, began taking on water and listing after the seals on its bow gate failed.

Minehead’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat was launched just before 7pm and put a salvage pump aboard the 40ft craft, where the cargo deck was already more than two feet deep in water.

Further pumps were put aboard by a coastguard helicopter and the all-weather lifeboat from Barry Dock, in South Wales.

However, with a two-metre swell running, the craft could make only slow progress against the tide trying to return to its base in Watchet.

One member of the three-man crew who was suffering from hypothermia had to be winched off by helicopter and flown to hospital in Cardiff.

And eventually Burnham-on-Sea lifeboat was launched to escort the vessel into the mouth of the River Parrett, where it was beached.

Minehead lifeboat helmsman Richard Gay said the landing craft was already listing noticeably when he and his crew arrived on scene.

“Luckily, we got the pump running right away but eventually the bow gate couldn’t be closed at all and more water was getting in with every wave” he said.

“Given the extent to which the craft was disabled and the sea state, the only option was for it to turn round and run with the tide into Burnham.”