Warship rescues sailor off Norfolk coast after serious fire rips through his yacht

A warship rescued a yachtsman after his vessel exploded into a ball of fire off the coast of Great Yarmouth last night.

Royal Navy warship HMS Mersey came to the rescue of the lone Dutch yachtsman, who had been sailing from Lowestoft to Holland.

The crew of the HMS Mersey reported flames rising 15 metres in the air and explosions that were visible from a number of miles away.

Once on scene the crew could see the yacht had been destroyed and flaming wreckage still remained on the surface.

The focus for HMS Mersey was turned to searching for survivors.

Within minutes of starting the search using night vision goggles, Mersey's 2nd Officer of the Watch, Midshipman Phillip Fordham, spotted a glint of something in the distance a couple of miles from the remains of the burning yacht.

One of the ship's two fast sea boats – equipped with a first aid team – was immediately sent to aid what turned out to be the sole occupant of the yacht, floating in a partially inflated and unlit life raft.

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He had been sailing alone from Lowestoft to his native Holland when the fire took hold and he was forced to abandon ship. Picked up by the crew of the sea boat, he was given blankets and first aid and brought back to HMS Mersey.

Onboard the ship's first aid teams assessed his condition and found him to be in a state of shock and cold, but otherwise unhurt.

The yachtsman was cared for onboard until a rescue helicopter arrived on scene a short time later. He was winched from the cargo deck to safety and transported to hospital in Great Yarmouth for further assessment.

HMS Mersey's Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Mark Anderson, said: 'I am immensely proud of how my ship's company responded to this distress call in challenging conditions. The ship was able to re-role from core fishery protection duties to search and rescue operations in a matter of minutes.

'I am pleased that we were able to rescue the casualty from the water and render first aid treatment as the yachtsman was in a perilous situation and understandably in a state of some shock but should make a full recovery.'

The River Class patrol ship had been on routine fishery protection duties off the Yarmouth coast when she heard the frantic mayday call from the yacht Pimpernel.

Information was limited at the time, and the only known facts relayed to the crew were that the vessel was on fire and that it was possibly in the area.

The crew worked with other vessels in the vicinity to identify the location of the yacht, and raced to the scene to offer assistance.

En route, the ship's company prepared fire fighting, first aid and search and rescue teams ready to assist.

HMS Mersey is one of the three ships which make up the RN's Fishery Protection Squadron enforcing on a daily basis UK and EU fisheries legislation in order to ensure the long term sustainability of the UK fishing grounds.

In addition, the three UK-based ships are the only Government vessels (excluding the nuclear deterrent) on permanent patrol around the UK, contributing to the policing of UK waters and delivering an intrinsic element of the UK's maritime security.

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