A man remains in hospital after two were saved from drowning when a stolen fishing boat crashed in the River Wear.
The dramatic rescue operation was mounted at 6.45pm last night after the owner of the fishing vessel reporting that his boat had been stolen and crashed into another vessel near Sunderland Fish Quay.
Sunderland RNLI volunteers were scrambled and both its inshore lifeboats were launched, as well as officers from Sunderland Coastguard Rescue and paramedics from the Northeast Ambulance Service.
Two men were pulled from the water.
Paul Nicholson, Helmsman at Sunderland RNLI said: "Thankfully a member of the Coastguard rescue team entered the water and managed to keep the first casualty afloat until our volunteers arrived on-board the D Class inshore lifeboat.
"Shortly after recovering the first man from the water; the second casualty decided to jump into the river from the stolen fishing vessel in an attempt to swim ashore.
"Lifeboat volunteers quickly managed to get hold of the man and pull him from the water to safety on-board the lifeboat."
The two men were immediately transferred back to Sunderland Marina on-board the D Class inshore lifeboat while the Atlantic 85 lifeboat crew ensured the stolen vessel was tied up and secure.
The two patients were then treated by RNLI volunteers until Paramedics arrived to take over the treatment before transporting them both to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Paul added: "Thankfully on this occasion a rapid response by Coastguard and RNLI volunteers prevented a potentially fatal accident as both casualties were struggling to keep them afloat in the water. Had the owner of the boat not seen this happening when he did; this incident could have easily ended being a very tragic accident."
Shortly before 7.30pm the lifeboat crew were released from the incident and cleared to return to the lifeboat station where the boats and equipment were washed off and cleaned ready for the next emergency call.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: "At 6.40pm last night police were informed a boat had been stolen in Fish Quay and two men were stuck in the river. One man remains in hospital in a stable condition.
"Enquiries are on-going. Any witnesses can ring Northumbria Police on 101 quoting reference 1029 021117 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."