Two people have died after an operation on Wednesday evening to rescue the captain of a freighter hit trouble in rough seas off Taiwan.

The drama began at about 4pm on December 5, when the 40-year-old Indonesian captain of the vessel collapsed and crew members of the ship radioed for emergency transport – a helicopter from the Taiwan Coast Guard Administration.

The ‘W-STAR’ was about 11 nautical miles away from the Pengjia Islet when crew members found the captain foaming at the mouth. Shortly after he lost consciousness, the United Daily News reported.

Taiwan’s Coast Guard immediately arranged a helicopter for emergency transport, an operation which involved a 36-year-old officer surnamed Ko from Special Air Service.

During the operation, Ko fastened the Indonesian captain into a basket stretcher, which was taken away successfully.

However, while ascending with the captain in a rescue sling, Ko was swung into the vessel and knocked unconscious as the helicopter was buffeted by strong winds amid severe weather conditions.

The helicopter landed at Taipei Songshan Airport at around 7pm. Ko was sent to the Taipei Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, but pronounced dead two hours later.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian captain, who was sent to the Tri-Service General Hospital Songshan Branch, was also pronounced dead despite efforts to resuscitate him.