Coast Guard crew had to swim to safety in near-freezing water.

US Coast Guard rescuers performed a dramatic airlift early Thursday morning when a fishing vessel grounded just metres from shore in New York during poor weather.

A 76ft fishing trawler from Virginia, the Carolina Queen III, remains beached in Far Rockaway, New York, on Long Island’s southern shore, after three- to four-metre waves battered and overtopped the the vessel’s gunwales for several hours overnight.

The Coast Guard airlifted the seven fishermen on board to safety using a helicopter and a casualty basket. All seven were taken to hospital for observation.

The airlift began just after dawn, at 7am local time, but the ship’s crew had sent a distress call some five hours earlier, saying they were taking on water.

A Coast Guard rescue boat team from Jones Beach station who first responded to the 2am distress call never reached the stricken scallop fishing boat.

The 25-foot Coast Guard boat flipped over in the heavy conditions, and the five crew members on board — all wearing protective gear — swam to shore in the near-freezing waters and heavy surf.

A spokesperson for the Coast Guard said the fishing trawler will be surveyed before it is moved. The survey is expected to take place when weather conditions improve.

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