One rescued and two missing as fishing boat sinks

The search for two fishermen who remain missing off the Sussex coast has been called off.

The search, near Newhaven, was triggered when the coastguard received an alert from the ship’s emergency beacon at about 06:00am on Saturday (21st November).

A man was found clinging to a buoy and was taken to hospital. Debris was located close to the location of the EPIRB alert location, but no life raft was found.

A large number of rescue units were involved in the search for the two remaining crew members on Saturday, including Eastbourne and Newhaven RNLI lifeboats, two coastguard rescue helicopters, the coastguard fixed wing aircraft, and Birling Gap and Beachy Head Coastguard Rescue Teams. Also helping were 12 other vessels including many fishing vessels in the area which responded to the coastguard broadcasts.

“It is testament to the local maritime community that HM Coastguard were so admirably supported throughout the day by nearby vessels and the local fishing communities who joined us in force and made strenuous efforts to locate their colleagues during the search. At one point, coastguard coordinators described tracking 14 vessels covering the search plan area including the two RNLI all weather lifeboats at sea,” says Chris Thomas, deputy director of HM Coastguard.

The search resumed on Sunday morning, but was called off early afternoon.

Two crew members from the boat, the Joanna C, remain missing.

“Sadly, two other crewmen have not yet been found and all our thoughts are with their families and friends,” says Thomas.

The emergency signal put the 45ft scalloping vessel, registered in Brixham, about three nautical miles off the coast.

Joanna C is one of a sizeable fleet of under-15m steel scallopers with varying degrees of automation operating from the South Devon port, according to Devon Live.

She spent several years in Brixham, during which time she hit the headlines after catching a wartime mine in her dredges, which then exploded, severely damaging her fishing gear and that of her partner boat, Livine BM 221, which was towing close by.

She was in the headlines again when a submarine snagged her trawl and towed her astern at quite a rate before the crew had a chance to run the warps off the winch and free the boat. Miraculously, no crew were injured in either incident.

Furthermore, according to Devon Live, she was attacked by French fishermen in 2018 with smoke bombs and other projectiles when a ‘scallop war’ broke out in the English Channel. The crew of the Joanna C were said to have been left ‘extremely shaken’ by the early morning attack.

In September 2019, Fishing News reported that Joanna C had recently completed a nine-month, near-bare-hull rebuild, to transform it into a state-of-the-art mid-sized beam scalloper capable of fishing week-long trips.

It has not been confirmed what caused the boat to sink or who was onboard.

Watch footage of the search, courtesy of Eddie Mitchell.

Image courtesy of Martin Johns, Fishing News
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