An extensive search is under way for two fishermen after their vessel capsized in the middle of the Channel on Tuesday night.
One man was found clinging to the hull of the overturned boat by a passing vessel at about 7.45am on Wednesday – nine hours after the boat capsized off the Kent coast at about 11pm.
The man was airlifted by the coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Lydd and taken to the William Harvey hospital at Ashford. His condition remains unclear, but he told rescuers two of his fellow crew members were missing.
Coastguards are carrying out a search for the crew members, but fears are mounting that they have been trapped in the wreckage or swept away by the tide. A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the search area extended from Ramsgate through to the mid-Channel area.
The coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Lydd, lifeboats from Ramsgate and Harwich and the coastguard rescue team from Margate have been scrambled to join the search for the Belgian-registered boat.
John Ray, a spokesman for Ramsgate lifeboat station, said: “There was a crew of three onboard the vessel. Only one has so far been rescued.”
It is understood that the incident happened suddenly, because the crew members made no contact with the coastguard. The vessel was 17 metres long, Ray added.
“Both of Ramsgate’s lifeboats are out there, the helicopter is back on the scene and they’re conducting a box search, which moves out further and further.”
Kaimes Beasley, the duty controller for UK Coastguard, said: “One person was found on the upturned hull and rescued but we understand there were other crew on board. We are currently searching for these missing crew with a number of search units.”