Photos and Video Show Sinking of North Sea Wind Farm Service Vessel

A volunteer lifeboat crew with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution were called out Tuesday to assist in the rescue of three crewmembers from a burning offshore wind farm workboat off the coast of Lowestoft in the North Sea.

RNLI says that the Tyne class all-weather lifeboat Spirit of Lowestoft was launched just before 1:00 p.m. following a distress call from the 15 meter crew transfer vessel, ECC Topaz, reporting a severe fire onboard and requesting immediate assistance for the crew who had abandoned ship.

The vessel caught fire about nine miles east of Lowestoft while heading out to service a wind farm. After sending a mayday message the three crewmen evacuated from the burning vessel into a life raft and awaited rescue.

As Lowestoft lifeboat approached the scene, the stricken crewmen were already being rescued by a RAF helicopter as the burning vessel slowly sank.

Fleet staff coxswain Phill Corsi who was at the helm of the Spirit of Lowestoft lifeboat said “on leaving the pier heads, we could see the smoke from the burning vessel on the horizon. Once the helicopter had winched the casualties to safety we went to recover the life raft and debris from the area, and the vessel was still burning at this stage.”

Coxswain Corsi added “the fire was quite severe and the crew had no option but to abandon the vessel. Its hull was still up in the air as the lifeboat crew recovered the life raft and debris, but the workcat sank within ten minutes.”

A spokesman for the RAF rescue helicopter said “we winched up the three casualties and took them to hospital. They seemed fine and were not even wet. They had all the correct lifesaving equipment and knew what to do.”

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Credit: RNLI/Sophy McCully
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Credit: RNLI/Sophy McCully