Prince William's crew search for Russian sailors

28th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince William's helicopter rescue crew searched in vain Monday for five missing Russian sailors after Moscow's ambassador to Britain thanked the royal for his efforts in saving two lives.

The Swanland, an 81-metre (265-foot) vessel in the Irish Sea, sent out a distress signal around 2:00 am (0200 GMT) Sunday when it was hit by a huge wave that ruptured its hull, coastguard officials said.

The Russian-crewed ship then sank in a storm off the northwest coast of Wales, leaving one man dead.

Two others were winched to safety Sunday by a Royal Air Force (RAF) Sea King helicopter co-piloted by William, who is second in line to the British throne.

The pair were found clinging to lifeboats. Five remain missing, and the search was finally called off late Monday.

Alexander Yakovenko, Russia's ambassador to London, wrote to William to thank the 29-year-old Duke of Cambridge for his efforts.

"All day long we were anxiously following the rescue operation searching for Russian seamen from the sunk Swanland vessel," he said.

"We know that you took an active part in the rescue and the two seamen were saved thanks to your selfless effort under the bad weather conditions.

"Let me express to you and your colleagues my deepest gratitude for saving the lives of the Russian citizens."

Coastguards said they and an RAF helicopter carried out a further search Monday but did not find the missing five seamen.

They covered 105 miles (170 kilometres) of the northwest Wales coast and found some additional wreckage, including a life jacket and a life ring.

A final search at low water found only further debris.

"Despite an air, land and sea search involving rescue resources from throughout Wales and Ireland the five seafarers have not been located," said Ray Carson, the Holyhead Coastguard watch manager.

Rescue crews on water and in the air covered 300 square miles (775 square kilometres) of the Irish Sea on Sunday.

William is based at RAF Valley on the island of Anglesey, northwest Wales.

The Swanland was transporting 3,000 tonnes of limestone around the British coast.

The ship was owned by a Britain-based company, Torbulk, and was flying the flag of the Cook Islands, according to shipping websites and media reports.

© 2011 AFP

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