Attempts to free stranded lifeboat the ’Katie Hannan’ which is stuck on rocks on Rathlin Island have been called off tonight.
High seas and gale force winds threatened fresh damage to the stranded £2m Portrush lifeboat.
Earlier the crew and engineering experts had to be rescued by helicopter after an attempt to pull it free failed when a line snapped.
Worried RNLI Ireland officials in charge of the operation fear worsening weather conditions pose a serious risk of more damage to the boat, which is filling up with water.
New attempts will be made tomorrow to get it off the rocks close to the entrance to the island’s harbour off Ballycastle on the North Antrim coast.
During one bid to steady the stricken boat, two of the lifeboat men were thrown into the sea when their inflatable dinghy was hit by a wave.
The 40-tonne lifeboat became jammed last night when the crew was called out from Portrush 15 miles away to rescue three people whose fishing boat got into trouble in a heavy swell with gales of 30-35mph.
At one stage today a tugboat from Derry tried to pull the boat free. The line snapping forced the operation to be abandoned however and later the crew themselves had to be airlifted to safety by an Irish Coastguard helicopter.
Colin Williams, divisional inspector with the RNLI, tonight confirmed the difficulties involved in the operation to get the lifeboat back into the harbour’s deep water for emergency repairs.
He said: “There is a lot of water inside the vessel. There is a lot of damage around the keel. We thought we were in with a chance, but it does not have the buoyancy to lift.
“All the watertight doors are closed, but there is a lot of water in the vessel. Unfortunately the there is a very bad weather forecast and we will have to wait until tomorrow before we decide what to do next.”