Sea drama: Prince William co-piloted a rescue helicopter as they searched for the crew from the large cargo ship
Prince William co-piloted a rescue helicopter today as one person died and five were missing after a cargo ship sunk in the Irish Sea.
Two people were plucked from the water after the 81metre vessel was sunk by an 'enormous wave' 10 miles off the west of the Lleyn peninsula in north Wales.
The Duke of Cambridge was called into action after the Swanland ship issued a mayday call at around 2am this morning when its hull cracked.
He has now returned to his base at RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales, the Ministry of Defence said.
Two members of the Russian crew of the Cook Islands-registered vessel were pulled from the water soon after the alarm was raised.
They were airlifted to safety by William's Sea King helicopter and were later taken to hospital in Bangor for precautionary checks.
Another crew member was found in the water later in the morning but was confirmed dead, said the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Two RAF Valley search and rescue helicopters were deployed to assist with the rescue operation which included two RLNI lifeboats and two commercial ships.
William was understood to have been involved in the operation over several hours.
Gale-force winds had battered the Irish Sea during the early hours and the Coastguard believe the weather could have been the cause of the incident.
Survivor: A man aboard a life raft waves at the helicopter piloted by the Prince as they attempted to rescue him and his colleagues after the ship sank
Rescue mission: The helicopter hovers over the sea as it looks for survivors
Sunk: The Swanland which was battered by gale-force winds in the Irish Sea
The cargo carrier was carrying 3,000 tonnes of limestone from Colwyn Bay to Cowes in the Isle of Wight when it sank.
Holyhead Coastguard watch manager Ray Carson said: 'The two men recovered from the water were brought here before going to the hospital. I think they are OK and are just suffering from
'In broken English and through drawing a diagram, the second officer told us the ship was hit by an enormous wave. It rolled the ship and broke its back.
'Obviously it was such a catastrophic failure she sank very quickly.'
Mission: Crew at RAF Valley today prepare to board their Sea King helicopter in the hunt for missing seaman after the cargo ship Swanland sank off the north Wales coast
The Prince, who was called out at 2am this morning, was back at base after being involved in the operation over 'several hours'
Sprayed: A car is swamped by a towering wave as it crashes along the Cumbrian coast after gales brought high tides and sea surges
Helicopters from RAF Valley and the Dublin Coastguard were involved in the initial operation before they were replaced with helicopters from RAF Chivenor and the Irish
Lifeboat crews from RNLI Phwllheli and Porthdinllaen are assisting in the search which has gone on throughout the day.
A RNLI spokeswoman said; 'Porthdinllaen all-weather lifeboat was launched in gale force winds and rough seas at 2.30am to a cargo vessel in distress with a damaged hull. Phwllheli all-weather lifeboat was also launched.'
According to one shipspotting website, the Swanland was built in the Netherlands and is owned by a company, Torbulk, in Grimsby.
Stormy: Foaming waves batter the Cumbrian coast near Workington where severe gales have been causing havoc across northern England
Rough seas: A lifeboat buffeted by gale-force winds passes the harbour wall in Holyhead
Mayday: Where the ship was reported to have sunk off the coast of Wales at Lleyn in the Irish Sea
Last August the vessel came close to going aground on rocks at Lizard Point, Cornwall.
The nine-man crew ship suffered engine failure in high winds as it carried a cargo of stone in the early hours of August 20.
A rescue helicopter was put on standby and a lifeboat was at the scene but Falmouth Coastguard's emergency towing vessel Anglian Princess successfully brought the ship to safety. No-one was injured.