A Royal UK Navy helicopter went to the aid of three people – a father and his two children – stranded on a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) after the craft’s engine failed.
The RIB had been sailing from Northern Ireland’s Rathlin Island to Port Ellen on the Isle of Islay, approximately 20 nautical miles (nm), when the power failed and the boat began to drift off course.
An RNLI lifeboat from Port Ellen and the duty Sea King from HMS Gannet in Prestwick were scrambled at approximately 7.25pm yesterday (Sunday June 1) and en-route to conduct a search. A merchant vessel in the area was also alerted.
The duty aircraft was on scene searching within 25 minutes of take off from Ayrshire. In discussion with Belfast Coastguard, the helicopter was able to establish VHF communication with the stricken vessel.
This airwave contact allowed the helicopter to refine the search still further and the boat and its three occupants were finally located using thermal imaging cameras.
Conditions on scene were difficult with patchy fog impairing visibility during the search, but the helicopter was able to find the boat in just over half an hour at 8.25pm.
“They had drifted considerably off course – they were about 15nm north west of Rathlin, when they should have been northerly,” explained HMS Gannet’s duty observer [navigator] Lieutenant Angela Lewis.
HMS Gannet’s crew was pilots Lieutenants Jamie Murray and Jamie Ross, observer and aircraft commander Lieutenant Angela Lewis and winchman/Aircrewman Petty Officer.
Press Release, June 03, 2014; Image: UK Navy