Five die after trawler capsizes in Atlantic

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The Independent Online

The bodies of six crewmen who died when their trawler capsized in the Atlantic were found yesterday.

The bodies of six crewmen who died when their trawler capsized in the Atlantic were found yesterday.

An RAF team recovered the bodies after one crewman had been found alive virtually unscathed after more than 12 hours in the water, in what was described by the RAF as a "quite exceptional" rescue.

Nine men from the German-registered Hansa who had managed to board one of the vessel's two lifeboats had been rescued earlier, but hopes of finding anyone else alive had fadedby late afternoon.

The five bodies were spotted near the point where the rescued crewman was found soon after midday.

Coastguard officials said the crewman lived because he was wearing a survival suit when the Hansa went down 240 miles west of Tiree in the Western Isles on Monday night.

The trawler, with 15 Spaniards and a German on board, issued an urgent distress signal at 11.10pm. The surviving crewman was picked up at 12.15pm yesterday. The RAF spokesman Michael Mulford said: "This man has been in the water since before midnight. He really must have the survival instinct - this is quite exceptional in the history of search and rescue operations."

The crew of a Nimrod aircraft from RAF Kinloss spotted him and a life-raft was dropped into the sea close to him. He managed to scramble into the life-raft, before being picked up by one of the Danish fishing vessels helping in the search. He was winched on board an Irish coastguard helicopter and followed his nine rescued colleagues to a military reception centre on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, where he was said to be suffering from minor hypothermia.

The coastguard spokesman Mark Clark said the nine in the life-raft were also suffering from hypothermia, having been picked up after four hours adrift. The nine were expected to be moved to hospital in Stornoway on nearby Lewis.

Two Danish trawlers and four other ships from Britain and Norway were continuing to search the area for the missing sailor yesterday.

The 100ft vessel had started out from the Spanish port of La Coruna. Falmouth coastguards first picked up the distress signals, but they could not contact the trawler by radio.

What caused the trawler to go down was not clear, but coastguard officials said it was being battered by 40mph winds and 15ft waves.

Officials at Falmouth alerted their counterparts in Clyde, and a Canadian air force reconnaissance aeroplane on an exercise in the area reported seeing flares and strobe lights from the trawler.

The aeroplane was joined by the Nimrod from RAF Kinloss and a naval helicopter from Prestwick before the nine men were picked up.

By early yesterday, as further aircrew joined the search, rescuers had almost written off the chances of any other crewmen surviving if they had failed to climb into the other life-raft.

John Griffiths, district controller at the Clyde coastguard service, said: "Investigations are continuing with the rescue co-ordination centres in Madrid and Bremen as the vessel had originally sailed from Spain."