The crew of a Plymouth-based scalloper helped save the lives of 31 people whose dinghy started sinking while attempting to cross the Channel last week, reports Paul Scott.

Four people died, and a total of 39 were rescued, after a small boat carrying a group of migrants began taking on water in the early hours of 14 December.

Arcturus entering Plymouth. (Photo: Martin Johns)

The scalloper, Arcturus PH 7979, skippered by Ray Strachan, was the first vessel on the scene, having been alerted by screams for help coming from the water.

Footage from the rescue shows people, some dressed only in T-shirts, being hauled by the crew onto the trawler with ropes.

Vessel owner Ben Squire told the Guardian that the crew managed to rescue 31 people from the dinghy. “You could see the carnage, the panic of the people in the water and the noise. That must have been overwhelming for the skipper and the crew.

“Conditions were a little bit rough. I think the bottom of the boat broke away and obviously people were in the water. It’s quite cold and that affects the body. But our guys were amazing. We managed to get 31 people onto the trawler.

“The crew piled them into the shower, hot water on them as they tried to warm them up, put clothes, the crew’s clothes, on them, which is amazing, and fed them. It was absolutely brilliant what they have done,” he said.

A major search and rescue operation was launched after a man on the stricken dinghy used WhatsApp to contact French humanitarian charity Utopia 56.

The government says it was alerted to the unfolding incident at 2.57am, sparking a search and rescue operation involving the Royal Navy, French navy, Coastguard rescue teams and RNLI lifeboats launched from Dover, Ramsgate and Hastings.

As Fishing News went to press, the search had resumed for up to four more people still thought to be missing.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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