Coastguards and lifeboats braved gale-force conditions in the early hours of 27 November 2011 in an effort to save five seamen after their ship, the 3,150dwt dry cargo vessel Swanland, sank off the North Wales coast. The vessel, loaded with 3,000 tonnes of limestone and with eight crew, sank 20 miles north-west of the tip of the Lleyn peninsula in rough seas and high winds.

The body of one crew member was recovered, and two others were rescued. After 14 hours of searching by rescuers in conditions described as ‘horrendous’, the operation was called off with the light failing. The ship’s two life rafts were spotted from the air, washed up on a remote island and a coastal peninsula. There were no signs of life, although attempts to reach them proved too dangerous. Prince William co-piloted an RAF Sea King helicopter, which rescued two of the Russian crew.

The cargo ship, which was carrying 3,000 tonnes of limestone from Colwyn Bay to Cowes, was caught in a force eight gale in the Irish Sea in the. Five of the men were on deck and three below when the wave hit the vessel, quickly sinking her.

Holyhead Coastguard watch manager Ray Carson said: ‘The two men recovered from the water were taken to hospital suffering from shock. In broken English and by drawing a diagram, the second officer told us the ship was hit by an enormous wave. which rolled her and broke her back’.

Porthdinllaen’s all-weather Tyne class lifeboat was launched in gale-force winds and Pwllheli Merseyclasslifeboat was also launched to join the search.

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