TWO anglers had to be airlifted to hospital after a dramatic rescue was launched when they were washed into the sea.
One of the men was winched to safety by a helicopter from RAF Boulmer after the pair got into difficulty while fishing along the coast at Blackhall.
It is believed the men were washed into the sea from an angling perch near the cliffs shortly after 3pm on Saturday.
The other man had already managed to get himself out of the sea before the RAF Boulmer helicopter arrived.
He was taken to hospital by the Durham Police helicopter suffering with shock and the effects of being in the cold water.
The condition of the man winched from the sea is thought to be more serious, but no further details have yet been released.
Both men were taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
A Coastguard spokesman said: “We received a call regarding two anglers who had somehow come to be in the sea.
“One managed to get himself out but was in shock and very cold and he was taken to hospital by the police helicopter.
“The second man had to be winched to safety from the sea by a helicopter from RAF Boulmer.
“Both anglers were taken to James Cook University Hospital.”
The spokesman said they were not exactly sure how the men had come to be in the sea, but it is believed they were washed in from an angling perch near the cliffs.
Lifeboat crew members were not called as the seas were deemed to be too rough and the helicopter from RAF Boulmer happened to be in the area at the time.
It is not known how long the pair had been in the water before they were spotted by a passer-by walking along the cliff top.
Once the RAF Boulmer helicopter arrived Coastguard officials say it took about 10 minutes to winch the second angler inside, before flying him to hospital in Middlesbrough.
It came after the coastguard was called to a report a group of 15 anglers were knocked over by a freak wave on Roker Pier in Sunderland.
The Sunderland Coastguard Rescue Team was sent to the scene, along with the RAF rescue helicopter from Boulmer at 1.30pm on Saturday.
One angler was injured, believed to be suffering from a broken leg, and had to be airlifted to hospital.