A merchant seaman was winched off a ship in rough seas and flown to hospital after he had a suspected heart attack.
A lifeboat crew made a brave effort to treat the Ukrainian chief engineer after he fell ill on board the 22,100-tonne HC Jette-Marit at 1pm on Friday, four miles east of Sunderland.
The man at first refused to be taken off the ship by helicopter, but agreed to be taken ashore by sea and the Tynemouth RNLI crew were scrambled.
Sea conditions were very bad with strong northerly winds, a tidal surge and a swell of one to five metres, the RNLI crew said.
Conditions worsened after two RNLI crew members got on board to treat him, so the coastguard rescue helicopter was then called in from Humberside Airport, arriving at 4.18pm.
The sick man and the crew members were winched off the ship because it was too dangerous for the RNLI men to get back on board their vessel.
The chief engineer was flown to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, and was well enough to walk off the helicopter.
Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station, said: “This was an unusual situation with the casualty initially refusing any help despite suffering what could have been a fatal condition.
“His arrival at hospital was only made possible by the coordinated rescue response and in particular the skill, determination and bravery of our volunteer lifeboat crew and the helicopter crew, who worked in very challenging sea and weather conditions.”