Man trapped under capsized fishing boat

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The Independent Online

Two men have died and a third is feared trapped underneath a fishing vessel after it capsized, coastguards said today.

The Belgian-registered boat overturned 11 miles off Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, after it snagged its nets while trawling at 5pm yesterday.

A Coastguard and Maritime Agency spokesman said a man is believed to be trapped in the upturned hull of the vessel as knocking has been heard.

He could have been there for more than 19 hours.

But the spokesman also warned that the noise could just be the trawler's gear banging against the side of the boat.

"We have heard some knocking in the upturned hull which could be a man," he said."Our first priority, if someone is alive in that hull, is to save his life."

A six-man Royal Navy diving team from Portsmouth is heading to the scene.

Of the two who died, one has been recovered from the water but the other body sank, said the spokesman.

The final member of the four-man crew was found clinging to the upturned hull of the boat earlier today.

He was taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital suffering from hypothermia and shock and is being interviewed by a Flemish-speaking Coastguard interpreter about the incident.

The alarm was raised at 8.34am when Dover Coastguard received a call from the merchant vessel Toledo reporting that crew had seen the man clinging to the boat.

Coastguard helicopter India Juliet was scrambled, along with Eastbourne RNLI lifeboat.

The warship Severn also assisted, as did several other merchant vessels, including the Vanquish which launched its own rescue boat.

A Coastguard and Maritime Agency spokesman said later that three men wereconfirmed dead.

The man receiving hospital treatment is the 19-year-old nephew of the skipper, the spokesman said.

A Royal Navy spokesman said the dive team had made two unsuccessful attempts to locate anyone inside the vessel. He said the operation was "hazardous ".

The bodies of two men have been recovered from the water, the spokesman said.One was wearing a survival suit and the other was wearing orange waterproof fishing gear.

The third man, who was wearing only underwear, sank.

"We have now called off the search and rescue operation," the spokesman added.