Jersey fishing boat believed to have sunk after collision with ferry

Major search and rescue operation launched off coast of Channel island after incident at 5.30am on Thursday

A Jersey fishing boat with a skipper and two crew members onboard is believed to have sunk in the Channel after a collision with a freight vessel.

The 18-metre long (59ft) wooden fishing boat, L’Ecume II, collided with a Condor Ferries vessel, the Commodore Goodwill, off the Channel island at 5.30am on Thursday.

A huge air and sea search was launched after the boat apparently sank in 40 metres of water following the collision and a remote operation vehicle, which is able to search the seabed, is to be used to try to pinpoint the location.

The skipper who is missing has been named by sources on the island as Michael Michieli, an experienced fisher.

The Jersey coastguard said: “There were three people onboard the fishing vessel: the captain and two crew members. Coastguards have deployed the RNLI’s inshore and all-weather lifeboats, two French rescue helicopters, Guernsey’s RNLI all-weather lifeboat and a French naval fixed-wing aircraft.

“Also involved in the search are Channel Island Air Search, Ports of Jersey’s pilot boat, and the government of Jersey’s fisheries rib.”

A large number of fishing boats were also helping, as well as drones, beach lifeguards on jetskis, and police officers. The search was suspended at nightfall and the operation will continue on Friday.

Jersey’s chief minister, Kristina Moore, sent her “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the vessel’s crew.

She tweeted: “Watching this situation closely. Grateful to all the French, Guernsey and Jersey services and fishing community who are searching for the crew. My thoughts and prayers are with the crew and their families.”

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said one of the island’s boats had located the wreck of the missing vessel using sonar.

He said: “It’s three and a half miles west of St Ouen’s Bay. It is on the seabed in about 40 to 50 metres of water, and that depth of water and the strong tides there are a challenge.”

Thompson said it was thought the fishing vessel, one of the largest in the Jersey fleet, may have been heading out to fishing grounds with two of the three men onboard resting in their bunks when the incident happened.

Thompson said the close-knit Jersey fishing community was reeling from the news: “We are still hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”

John Napton, the chief executive of Condor Ferries, said: “We can confirm that Commodore Goodwill was involved in a collision with a fishing boat at 5.30 this morning.

“Goodwill was en route from Guernsey to Jersey on her regular sailing when the incident occurred, north-west of Jersey. The master notified the coastguard in Jersey and Goodwill has assisted in the search and rescue.

“Condor has notified authorities and will fully comply with any investigation into the incident.”

Richard Henry, a passenger on the Commodore Goodwill, told ITV News: “We heard five long blasts on the horn and then a big bang. Then an announcement from the captain: ‘This is not a drill. All crew to action stations.’ I could see the tail-end of [a] trawler just disappearing out of sight.”

Jersey’s meteorological office reported that it was cloudy at the time of the incident, with a force 7 north-easterly wind and temperatures of 4C (39F), and that the rescue operation was taking place in crisp, bright conditions.


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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