Passengers rescued from Irish Sea ferry

RESCUERS mounted dramatic operation to winch to safety 23 passengers and crew from a ferry that ran aground off the coast in “horrendous” weather.A huge wave smashed into the Riverdance as it crossed the Irish Sea last night, causing it to run into difficulties off the coast of Fleetwood, Lancashire.

RESCUERS mounted dramatic operation to winch to safety 23 passengers and crew from a ferry that ran aground off the coast in mountainous seas and 60mph winds.

A huge wave is reported to have smashed into the Riverdance as it crossed the Irish Sea last night, causing it to run into difficulties off the coast of Fleetwood, Lancashire.

RAF, Royal Navy and Irish Coastguard helicopters were scrambled to rescue those on boad.

Rich Taylor, one of the RAF winchmen involved in the operation, told the BBC: "It took some time to get the first rope down to the boat.

“Unfortunately, we then lost contact with that rope just through the boat moving away from us in the big swirl.

“So we had another bash at it and managed to get another rope down.”

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The Riverdance was carrying four passengers and 19 crew members when its cargo shifted and it started listing at 60 degrees at about 7.30pm yesterday

All but nine essential crew members had been winched to safety from the roll-on roll-off ,

The RNLI, which sent lifeboats from Fleetwood and Lytham St Annes to assist, described the conditions as “horrendous”.

Those airlifted to safety were taken to Blackpool airport to recover and be assessed for injuries.

Another rescue operation was launched today after a trawler ran aground in stormy conditions with 14 crewmen aboard.

The Spinning Dale was pushed into rocks off St Kilda in the Western Isles early this morning.

Stornoway Coastguard said they received a distress call at 5.20am, as force-nine gales were battering the islands.

The British-registered boat, which has a Spanish crew, was taking on water, which was swamping the deck, a Coastguard spokeswoman said.

All 14 seamen were said to be sheltering in the vessel's bridge, but none was reported to be injured.

A Coastguard helicopter was scrambled and reached the boat, while another was standing by. The Stornoway lifeboat was also on its way.

But coastguards said removing the crewmen would not be easy in the treacherous conditions.

A spokeswoman said: “It's run aground and now it's taking on water. The crew are in the bridge.”