Lough Swilly RNLI rescued three fishermen this morning who had been reported missing after they failed to return home.
It was the first rescue for Lough Swilly RNLI’s new Shannon-class lifeboat and her volunteer crew.
The callout occurred after the three fishermen from the Malin area took out a small fishing boat to test the engine just after 7.30pm last night.
The alarm was raised before midnight when they had not returned and had failed to make contact with anyone on shore.
In a major search operation Malin Head Coast Guard requested Lough Swilly RNLI to launch both the Shannon class lifeboat and the inshore Atlantic lifeboat, along with the Portrush RNLI all-weather lifeboat and the Greencastle Coast Guard shore based unit.
The groups were also joined by a large contingent of local fishing vessels from the Malin and Glengad area.
Conditions were described as choppy when at 2.30am the missing fishermen managed to make a call and give an approximate location.
Lough Swilly RNLI’s Shannon class lifeboat then picked up a small spot on their radar and headed for the area with large searchlights trained on the water.
They located the men safe and well and wearing survival suits and lifejackets. The vessel has lost power and had drifted 12 miles.
Commenting on the callout John McCarter Lough Swilly RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: "‘You fear the worst when you hear fishermen are missing and we have seen too many tragedies in this part of the world.
"However the men kept their heads and were in proper survival gear which gave them every chance if something happened.
"The outpouring of support from the local fishing community was wonderful and bringing the vessel home under tow behind the lifeboat, to be greeted by locals lining the pier at that early hour of the morning was an incredible sight.
"In this first rescue for our new Shannon class lifeboat, the time it took for us to reach the search area has been reduced on what our previous lifeboat could achieve, which in search and rescue operations can mean the difference between a life saved or a life lost."