The Portrush RNLI all-weather lifeboat was left stranded on rocks at Rathlin Island off the North’s coast last night after attempting to rescue three people whose boat was perilously close to rocks.
After several failed attempts to throw a line to the stricken boat, lifeboat Katie Hannan was grounded when struck by a heavy swell.
Despite the efforts of a local fishing vessel and Larne’s RNLI lifeboat to tow the Katie Hannan from the rocks, the lifeboat could not be moved.
Two of the lifeboat crew were thrown into the water from the lifeboat’s small inflatable boat after assisting in the attempts to refloat the all-weather lifeboat. They both managed to scramble ashore safely.
For their own safety, the five Katie Hannan crew remaining on board had to leave their vessel.
The three people who were at the centre of the rescue attempt were safely assisted to the shore by the Rathlin Island Coastguard team.
An attempt to pull her off the rocks by tugboats will be made early this afternoon at high tide.
RNLI lifeboats from Larne, Islay and Lough Swilly are helping to maintain all-weather lifeboat cover until a relief lifeboat arrives at Portrush later tonight.
The Portrush inshore lifeboat continues to operate normally.
The Inspector of Lifeboats for RNLI Ireland, Colin Williams, praised the bravery of the Portrush lifeboat crew and their colleagues from Larne.
“The Larne lifeboat crew, helped by local fishermen from Ballycastle, aboard the fishing vessel Siobhan 2, struggled for several hours in very difficult sea conditions to attempt to refloat the Portrush Lifeboat,” he said.
“The Rathlin Island Coastguard team greatly assisted rescue efforts from ashore and the operation was efficiently co-ordinated by Belfast HM Coastguard.
“This incident clearly demonstrates the crucial importance of RNLI training that all our volunteer crew receive. It ensures they stay as safe as possible in sometimes hostile and dangerous conditions as has happened here.”