Eastbourne’s all-weather lifeboat was launched at 01.30 last night in some of the worst sea conditions experienced by the volunteer crew for many years when a crewman aboard a Belgium trawler sustained a broken leg and required evacuating to hospital for treatment.

The lifeboat was tasked along with a coastguard rescue helicopter to rendezvous with the trawler 18 miles offshore to collect the injured crewman and return him to shore. Having had several days of gale force winds the sea conditions on scene was extremely hazardous with strong winds and a 4 metre swell. These conditions were outside the operating capabilities of the helicopter so it had to return to station. Two Dutch Warships were in the area and attempted to put themselves in a position to shelter the rescue but after repeated attempts to come alongside the trawler Lifeboat Coxswain Mark Sawyer was forced to abort for fear of causing severe damage to both his own vessel and that of the casualty. It was decided that both vessels should steam at full speed to Eastbourne Bay where it was hoped the transfer could take place in relatively calmer condition. Eventually this was achieved and the casualty was finally brought ashore at Sovereign Harbour at approx. 06.30.