Lifeboat crewman describes debris of sunken fishing boat

The three men rescued from the life raft Picture: Alexandra Rosen/PA Wire

The three men rescued from the life raft Picture: Alexandra Rosen/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A lifeboatman has described the moment he saw the debris of the sunken fishing vessel which has sparked a major search operation for two missing fishermen in the North Sea.

Paul Garrod saw off the six strong crew on the Caister Lifeboat sent out to search for the missing men after their boat sunk about 20 miles off the Great Yarmouth area on Saturday.

As part of their search, which started on Saturday night, they came upon an unused life raft which had the wording Zeebrugge on it.

Mr Garrod, who is chairman of Caister Lifeboat Station, said: 'We got the call at 7.55pm and we were joined by Gorleston out there. Once we were there we were joined by two cruise ships, three Putford boats, numerous other vessels and helicopters all under the instruction of Her Majesty's Coastguard.

'We picked up a life raft with Zeebrugge on it, so it was a Belgian boat and there were some fish boxes.'

Caister lifeboat was called out Picture: Anthony Carroll

Caister lifeboat was called out Picture: Anthony Carroll - Credit: Archant

Mr Garrod said once his boat was 20 miles out there were swells of three metres high and they returned home to their base at 3.30am.

He added: 'We are hoping they will be found safe.'

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Some of the Caister crew went back out just three hours later on a search this morning.

The major search has also involved lifeboat crews from Great Yarmouth and Gorleston and Lowestoft with other vessels in the area and Coastguard helicopters also being used.

Three men from sunken vessel had been rescued by the cruise ship Pacific Princess on Saturday, with passengers watching the dramatic rescue from its decks.

The RNLI confirmed the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston station sent out its all weather lifeboat on the search on Saturday night and it was recalled at 2.30am.

The crew were paged at 7.30pm.

A spokesman said that the station has not been tasked with helping with the search this morning by the Coastguard centre leading the search and would not comment any further on the search as it was still ongoing.

A spokesman for the RNLI Lowestoft Station, which has a boat out looking for the missing men this morning, said: 'Our thoughts are with the two men's family and friends.'

While the independent Hemsby Lifeboat Station crew has not been called into the search its crew were thinking of the missing men and the local lifeboat crews searching for them.

Dan Hurd, coxswain, said: 'The last thing you want to hear is that two people are missing. It is awful. Our thoughts are with the men's family.

'We feel for them and the lifeboat crews who are doing an amazing job.'

The Hemsby lifeboat can journey six miles out to sea.