TWO fishermen were lucky to escape with their lives when a fishing boat burst into flames and sank.
The incident happened at around 7am yesterday around four miles south of Hook Head, off Co Wexford.
The Dunmore East Lifeboat was launched following a call that the MVF Kingfisher was in distress.
However, when the lifeboat arrived, the two men had already left the vessel and had taken to a life-raft.
They were picked up by the MVF Defiant – another fishing vessel that was in the area.
It is understood that around 12 boats had responded to a May Day call from the Kingfisher.
There were no reported injuries in the incident and the crew were not in the water at any time. They were said to be shaken by the incident.
By the time the lifeboat attended the scene, the fishing vessel's wheelhouse was already engulfed in flames. The lifeboat tried to extinguish the blaze with two jets of water directed onto the deck.
However, the fire had also spread below deck, making it inaccessible to the emergency services.
The lifeboat was stood down at 10am as fears grew about the possibility of exploding fuel tanks – due to the presence of gas cylinders on board.
The cause of the fire has not been established and a rescue helicopter revisited the area yesterday evening to confirm that the boat had sank.
"They fought right through for about an hour, I think, and just when they thought they were doing well, there was a big fire right down deep in the engine and they really couldn't control it, unfortunately," Neville Murphy, winchman with the Irish Coastguard helicopter, said.
"When a vessel goes on fire there's only so much you can do – they did the right thing."