Four men were "panicking" as their boat filled with seawater following a near-miss with another vessel in the dead of night, a court heard.

Romanian nationals Mercea "Mitch" Ilea, 40, Irinel Popovici, 41, and Treaiam Dumitrache, 50, drowned when waves of seawater gushed into the James 2 boat off the coast of Shoreham, West Sussex, on the night of August 5-6 2017.

The fourth man on board, Elvis Cojocariu, was found alive the next morning, suffering from hypothermia, by a fisherman who was checking his nets.

David Marr, 53, of Tower Hill in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, was skippering the Vertrouwen boat which passed very close by, causing water to pour into the James 2, prosecutors say.

He is charged with failing to maintain a proper lookout and appeared at Lewes Crown Court for trial on Monday.

Mr Cojocariu, giving evidence from behind a screen, told the court they first saw the Vertrouwen in the distance but then noticed it was getting "far too close".

He said: "We all panicked, all three of us.

"We told Mitch that the ship was running us over.

"And then Mitch turned the engine on and turned the boat on one side, turned facing towards the windmills."

He said the group "never thought the accident would happen".

Mr Cojocariu continued: "All of a sudden the water entered the boat.

"And then Mercea tried to empty (the boat) with a bucket but there was no chance because another wave came and filled the boat with water.

"And then the boat went down in an angle and we just said to jump into the water. We were panicking."

One of them, Mr Dumitrache, emptied a petrol barrel and jumped into the sea holding it.

Mr Cojocariu and Mr Popovici used a knife to cut buoys from the James 2 and held onto those.

Mr Ilea "had nothing", Mr Cojocariu told the jury.

Hours later Mr Cojocariu was found alive by a fisherman after dawn and told him about his three companions.

However he later found out that he was the only survivor.

Facing questions from defence barrister Oliver Powell, Mr Cojocariu said that he had been drinking on the day in question.

Mr Powell said: "It was the weekend to relax and let off some steam?"

Mr Cojocariu said: "Yes."

Mr Powell said: "I want to suggest to you that the reality is that you were drinking on and off all day."

Mr Cojocariu said: "I do not know exactly the number but I did drink."

He told the court he was about a seven on a scale of one to 10 in terms of the effect the alcohol was having on him when he was on the boat.

Mr Cojocariu said that when they first spotted the Vertrouwen in the distance Mr Ilea was in the cabin rolling a cigarette.

Mr Powell said: "Do you think you should have contacted him sooner once you saw the vessel coming towards you?"

Mr Cojocariu said: "We did not think that it would run us over.

"When we saw it approaching us that is when we thought it was a danger."

He said there was "no time" to contact the Vertrouwen by radio.

The trial continues.