Two men were rescued from the sea after their fishing boat capsized.
Rescuers said a third man made it ashore, but the other two were found floating on their backs and were brought to safety by two of the Lyme Regis Lifeboat crew who entered the water to reach them.
The boat capsized near the mouth of the River Ax at Axmouth, Devon, last night.
Rescuers said the men – who were not wearing life jackets – had been “very lucky”.
One of the two men was airlifted from the lifeboat by the Coast Guard helicopter and taken to Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester suffering from the cold.
The second man was taken ashore by the lifeboat crew and was reportedly taken to Exeter hospital.
One man using a torch was spotted in the water by the Beer and Lyme Regis Coast Guard communicating with the lifeboat from shore, and the other was located using the helicopter’s searchlights.
Besides the lifeboat, Coast Guard crews from Beer and Lyme Regis, Lifeboats from Sidmouth and Exmouth, Coast Guard helicopter, First Responders and Paramedics from South Western Abulance all have responded to the incident.
The two lifeboat crew members who retrieved the seafarers were Andy Butterfield and Rich Tilley.
Lifeboat coxswain Tim Edwards said: “The men were very lucky, but they were doing what the RNLI recommended and were floating on their backs waiting for help to arrive.
The lifeboat crew were alerted at 4:59 p.m. and launched seven minutes later. They returned to Lyme Regis at 7 p.m. after two hours at sea.
The capsized fishing vessel was towed to Beer by the crew of the independent Sidmouth lifeboat.
A Beer Coastguard spokesperson said: “We were loaded with three people in the water after their boat capsized while trying to enter the river; they were not wearing life jackets.
“On arrival a man had managed to swim to shore but was hypothermic. We could see another man waving a light about 100m from shore but we couldn’t see the third man.
“Lyme Regis Lifeboat immediately went to the man in the water we could see, as we began to heal the man ashore and the Axis Yacht Club opened up for us to do so. Come in. Other resources were on their way to help with the incident.
“The Lyme lifeboat brought the second man ashore and he was hypothermic again, he was taken inside and started his treatment, (first) responders arrived at the scene and continued their treatment while other resources searched the shore and sea for the missing man.
“Two ambulances arrived at the scene and continued treatment.
“The Coast Guard helicopter located the third man more than 500m west of the mouth of the river and 200m offshore, again the Lyme lifeboat pulled him out of the water. ‘water and due to his condition he was airlifted into the helicopter and taken to hospital while the other two were taken to hospital by ground ambulance.
“With the three injured on their way to the hospital, we turned our attention to the injured boat drifting half-submerged offshore.
“Sidmouth’s lifeboat managed to tow it to Beer Beach where the Coast Guard managed to get it back up to the beach with the help of a local fisherman.”
The spokesperson added: “These men are very lucky that someone saw what happened and dialed 999.
“Lifejackets save lives – always wear a lifejacket at sea and don’t take it off until you are safe on land.
“We wish them a speedy recovery.”
The team would like to thank the Ax Yacht Club and beer fisherman Kim for their help and those who dialed 999 – they said without these calls the result would have been “very different”.