Two RNLI lifeboats and a coastguard helicopter were sent to the scene off Littlehampton on Thursday afternoon

Four people were pulled from the sea on Thursday after their fishing vessel sank off Littlehampton.

The boat sent out a Mayday alert just before 3.30pm, reporting that the vessel was taking on water and that their pumps were not coping with the ingress.

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RNLI lifeboats from Shoreham and Littlehampton were sent to the scene, along with the coastguard rescue helicopter based at Lee on Solent.

The rescue quickly became more urgent after one of the crew managed to make a phone call at 3.38pm explaining that the vessel had sunk and that all four were in the water, wearing lifejackets, and clinging on to a buoyant fuel tank.

Using mobile phone technology available to the coastguard and its helicopters the crew were able to talk directly to the people in the water and marked their position until the lifeboats arrived on scene.

The group were then taken aboard an RNLI lifeboat before being transported ashore to receive medical attention.

UK coastguard commander Steve Carson said: “The crew did exactly the right thing and quickly called for help when they realised the situation was getting out of their control.

“The coastguard recommend that where possible, all vessels are fitted with VHF DSC radio equipment which can send a distress alert and, if it is linked up to GPS, an accurate position of your vessel to the coastguard with one touch of a button.

“This incident is another reminder why you should wear a lifejacket. I’m sure this crew were grateful for their protection whilst they waited to be rescued.”