As the Flight Lieutenant Wales trained in search and rescue work in the RAF, Prince William, and his colleagues, helped in the rescue mission of the 81-metre Swanland cargo ship that sank almost immediately, because of heavy gales and enormous waves, in t
As the Flight Lieutenant Wales trained in search and rescue work in the RAF, Prince William, and his colleagues, helped in the rescue mission of the 81-metre Swanland cargo ship that sank almost immediately, because of heavy gales and enormous waves, in the royal Sea King helicopter.REUTERS

Prince William has helped save the lives of two Russian sailors as he assisted in the rescue of a cargo vessel which sank in rough seas off the northern Wales coast on Sunday morning.

Flight Lieutenant Wales, who trained in search and rescue work in the RAF, and his colleagues helped in the rescue mission of the 81-metre Swanland cargo ship that sank because of heavy gales and enormous waves, in the royal Sea King helicopter.

Battling the winds at 70mph, the RAF team's helicopter hovered over one of the liferafts and winched the men and pulled them safely. According to media reports, Roman Savin and Vitaly Kornenko were flown back to the airbase before being treated in hospital in Bogar. However, five other crew members were still missing and the body of another sailor, Leonid Sapunov, was recovered.

"It was a four-man crew - captain, co-pilot, radar operator and winchman - and he (Prince William) was the co-pilot. The weather conditions were described as extremely bad, with poor visibility and strong winds," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said explaining the role of Prince William.

Russia's ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko, thanked Prince William for taking part in the rescue of Russian sailors. "I want to thank Prince William and his colleagues for the rescue of two Russian sailors in the Irish Sea," said the Ambassador said in a message posted on his Twitter page.

According to reports, the royal helicopter was involved in the rescue for several hours. Even the coastguards said the conditions were extremely dangerous and difficult. At around 2 am on Sunday, the coastguard was alerted of the incident and four helicopters, two lifeboats and two merchant ships had helped scan the area.

"One of the survivors said that there were five of them on deck at the time, wearing survival suits because of the conditions, and there were three either below or within the accommodation," Ray Carson, watch manager at Holyhead coastguard, has told the Guardian.

"He described a huge wave rolling the ship, and she broke her back. It was a catastrophic failure, and she obviously sank very quickly after that."

Commenting the rescue mission undertaken by the Sea King crew, Carson said: "It would be quite a feat given the conditions. As well as keeping a helicopter stable in the winds they had to winch someone down to a liferaft moving around in the water."

"This was an outstanding work from the RAF Valley helicopter Rescue 122 given the conditions. The crew definitely saved the lives of two men."

The two rescued survivors said the ship sank in stormy weather of gale force eight and above. They also told coastguards about the five crew members who were on deck wearing strobe-lighted survival suits when the ship was hit by a huge wave.

"The wave struck shortly after the ship had radioed to say it was experiencing extreme weather conditions," added Carson.

The 1,978-tons Swanland, which was carrying 3,000 tons of limestone from Llanddulas, near Colwyn Bay to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, has been split into two as 40ft waves hit her during an 82mph gust of wind. The coastguards had called the rescue mission off on Sunday night and may resume on Monday.

For the Duke of Cambridge, the mission was his second of his shift. Earlier, Prince William had flown a woman after she had inhaled water and was suffering from hypothermia while swimming at Trearddur Bay.

During these rescue missions, it is believed that Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, will staying at the couple's home in Anglesey.