By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Coast Guard helicopters from Shannon and Dublin rescued the 16 crew members of a British-registered trawler from heavy Atlantic seas after their vessel caught fire about 150 miles off the County Clare coast.
The all-Spanish crew sent out a mayday distress call on Monday when a fire broke out in the accommodation quarters of the trawler "Milford Eagle."
When the fire spread, they abandoned the 116-foot vessel and took to three life rafts, which they managed to lash together in heavy seas.
A marine rescue spokesman said the Shannon-based helicopter reached the scene first and airlifted four of the crew off the life rafts and brought them back to Shannon.
An RAF nimrod aircraft from Kinloss, in Scotland, remained on station above the scene providing top cover and communication assistance.
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The helicopter winchman was left on the life rafts to help coordinate further rescue efforts and help with language difficulties. An Irish trawler, the Alimar, then took the remaining 12 crew and the winchman aboard.
The rescue spokesman said no one was injured and the Coast Guard helicopter from Dublin brought the rest of the crew and the winchman ashore from the trawler.