WATCH: Fishermen rescued after trawler turns on its side in Dartmouth Harbour

One of the trawlers would not re-right itself due to severe internal flooding. Credit: RNLI/John Fenton

Five French fishermen had to be rescued in Dartmouth Harbour after their trawlers began listing heavily (tilting to one side) on a falling tide.

Three French trawlers had been looking for shelter in the harbour during rough seas.

Two of them were tied up but listing severely, with reports of a fire and both crews needing evacuation. The crews were rescued using ladders and ropes by lifeboat and fire engines from Dartmouth.

Credit: RNLI
Credit: RNLI

The skipper, Andre Stephane, described what happened as the high spring tides drained away.

The boat started tilting, and it started getting a bit critical so they called the emergency services.

Andre Stephane
Credit: RNLI

When one of the trawlers wouldn't re-right itself the lifeboat crew discovered severe internal flooding, but no fire.

It was a difficult rescue in high winds and bitter cold as members from RNLI explain.

When we arrived both boats were hanging off the quay wall by their warps. One was listing a bit more than the other, and we assisted the fire brigade who took off five crew from one vessel and we managed to get the other five off the other vessel.

Rob Clements, Dartinshore Lifeboat

The crew lowered themselves off the stern. They had to drop about 6 or 8 feet in to the lifeboat.

Capt Rob Giles, Dartmouth harbour master
Credit: ITV West Country

See the rescue here:

There were fire crews from Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Totnes, and coastguard volunteer rescue teams involved all through the early hours.