- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2011

LONDON (AP) — Prince William joined a frantic rescue mission Sunday after a cargo ship sank in the Irish Sea, leaving several crew members still missing.

The second in line to the British throne, who is a Royal Air Force helicopter and is known professionally as Flight Lt. William Wales, was aboard an aircraft that rescued two crew members early Sunday after their vessel suffered a cracked hull in gale-force winds off the coast of north Wales.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said William had been co-pilot of the helicopter, which carried two people back to his base, RAF Valley, on the Welsh island of Anglesey.

Authorities said five people remain missing after the Swanland cargo ship, which had eight people on board and was carrying thousands of tons of limestone, sent a mayday call.

The Holyhead coast guard base said that one body had been recovered from the sea but that the fate of the other crew members was not yet known.

“We know that at least some of them are wearing immersion suits and have strobe lighting with them; however, sea conditions are challenging at best,” said Jim Green, a coast guard spokesman.

Rescue helicopters from RAF Valley and from the Dublin coast guard base in Ireland initially were sent to the scene, about 20 miles northwest of the Llyn peninsula in north Wales.

Helicopters from RAF Chivenor in southwest England and the Irish coast guard are continuing to search for the missing crew, along with boats from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

“Two RNLI lifeboats, along with four search and rescue helicopters and two other commercial boats, are searching for the remaining six crew,” the RNLI said in a statement.

Gale-force winds battered the Irish Sea on Sunday, and the coast guard said it is believed the poor condition could have caused the incident.

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