TWO fishermen had a lucky escape when they were rescued from the North Sea after spending hours adrift in a life raft off Sunderland when their boat sank.
The pair ran into trouble 12 miles offshore around 9.30am, when their boat The Stella Maris is believed to have struck a sunken object.
The boat went down so quickly they were unable to raise the alarm before abandoning ship.
They were rescued more than seven hours later after being spotted by a Dutch yacht, The Jager, which was making it way down the coast.
The crew of the yacht contacted the Coastguard, who arranged for the pair to be transferred to the Hartlepool lifeboat.
They were checked over by paramedics but released.
Mike Puplett, Humber Coastguard Watch Manager said: “Both of the fishermen are now safe and well, although a little shaken by their ordeal. We’d like to thank the Dutch yacht ‘Jager’ which rescued the men and went out of their way to ensure their safety.
“The fishing vessel’s liferaft was a life saver today and this incident highlights how important it is to ensure that liferafts are properly maintained and able to float free of the boat should the worst happen.
“Fishermen should wear personal flotation devices at all times while on deck. Even if the liferaft floats free, getting into one is no mean feat, especially if the weather is more volatile than today’s relatively calm seas.
“Although the liferaft has been drifting for nine hours, we are still hopeful that we will be able to find the wreckage of the boat using our search and rescue information system (SARIS) which is a computer programme that allows us to plot the drift of vessels.
“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s counter pollution branch and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch have been informed.”