Suffolk: Rescued men forced to climb out of window as boat sinks in seconds

LIFEBOAT crews were praised last night for saving 11 men from a rapidly sinking boat in a dramatic rescue off the Suffolk coast.

The 33ft vessel sank so quickly that, as the stern went under, four of the men were still trapped in the wheelhouse and had to clamber out through a window.

The drama unfolded about a quarter of a mile to the north east of the Lowestoft harbour entrance at about 12.10pm yesterday.

It was only by chance that the Lowestoft lifeboat was out on an exercise and was able to get to the scene within a matter of minutes.

Coxswain John Fox said last night: “If they had been further offshore it could’ve been a different story - it was as lucky as that really.”

It is not yet known what caused the accident.

It had been planned to be a recreational dive trip, but it almost turned into tragedy as the 11 men aboard the boat were pulled to safety by the town’s RNLI lifeboat as the waves crashed over them.

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The “swift actions” of the six-strong volunteer crew on the Spirit of Lowestoft Lifeboat were praised by Mr Fox.

One of the men aboard the 10-metre recreational dive boat said he and the others were “extremely lucky” that the lifeboat was so close.

The man, who didn’t want to be named, said: “They are worth their weight in gold and I take my hat off to them. The service we had, I don’t think you could get any better.”

He said that the dive boat was returning back to shore, when “something went wrong” and water was soon up to his ankles.

“It was then up to my knees, and then my was that quick,” he said.

The lifeboat had been on a training exercise, when crew spotted the dive boat in trouble, in what were described as choppy sea conditions.

All 11 people on board were safely rescued from the waters by the lifeboat crew, with four people subsequently taken to hospital for treatment for “diesel ingestion” and shock. The majority of those rescued are believed to be local.

Mr Fox described how the incident unfolded. “It looked like he [the boat] was coming in, and hadn’t actually been for the dive, but it was in a bit of trouble. The next thing it was down by the stern and they were baling out - and the next thing we knew it had gone under.

“You could see three of the guys in the wheelhouse, with their faces by the glass - they must have been terrified.”

Later in the afternoon the town’s lifeboat returned to the dive boat, as it drifted with the flood tide. After initially getting stuck on a sandbank, it quickly drifted past the town’s harbour and ended up at teatime last night just past Ness Point, with the underside of the bow of the boat still visible.

Having been coxswain of Lowestoft Lifeboat for five-and-a-half years, Mr Cox added: “I have been on the lifeboat for more than 20 years and I have never had to rescue that many people in one go like that.

“I would like to pay tribute to my crew. It was their swift work and the guys in the water who stayed calm as it was a very major incident.”

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