Drifting out to sea in an inflatable dinghy

When a father swam out to stop his daughter drifting away in an inflatable dinghy, he realised he couldn’t reach her. Thankfully, there were willing RNLI volunteers who could.
Blackpool's D class lifeboats

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

On Saturday 30 June 2018, Blackpool Crew Members Iain Procter-Dow and Brent Kenny were looking forward to soaking up the last of the day’s sunshine with an evening cycle down the promenade. 

Starting at Brent’s house, they saddled up when, suddenly, the pager sounded.

‘It was an immediate launch page for the inshore D class lifeboat,’ Iain remembers. ‘We jumped straight into Brent’s van and drove to the station.’

Helm Kyle King and the other inshore lifeboat volunteers arrived moments later. As they pulled on their yellows, reports came in of a young girl who had been blown offshore in an inflatable boat. And someone was swimming out to try and help her.

With sunset fast approaching, time was of the essence, and both inshore lifeboats launched.

'I'm cold and I can't swim'

Kyle was at the helm of the D class Basil Eric Brooks, with Iain and Brent. They powered towards the young woman. The volunteers aboard the second D class, Eileen Mary George, searched for the swimmer – the girl’s father. Unknown to the crew, he had returned to shore. 

‘With the easterly wind growing stronger, he quickly realised that if he’d kept going, he would have drowned,’ explains Kyle. 

As the crew of Basil Eric Brooks approached the girl in her dinghy, her ‘boat’ was already beginning to deflate and fill up with water. 

‘If we hadn’t arrived, it would have completely deflated in the next 20 minutes or so,’ Brent says. 

‘She looked quite scared,’ adds Iain. ‘She immediately told us: “I’m cold and I can’t swim.” I got a lifejacket out, blew it up for her to put on and we pulled her onboard.’ 

Returning to the station, the crew wrapped the girl in blankets and extra layers to keep her temperature from dropping.

Safely back on land, the crew gave the teenager a medical assessment. ‘I work for the ambulance service, so I gave her a full medical exam to make sure she wasn’t hypothermic,’ Iain describes. ‘Luckily, she was OK.’ 

The teenager’s family had been sat on the beach – near the lifeboat station – watching the crew rescue their daughter on the water.

‘Her dad came over and shook our hands. He was over the moon,’ Kyle recalls. ‘He thought his daughter was going to be lost at sea.’

Watch Blackpool RNLI rescue the teenager in the video below.

‘Inflatables aren’t designed for the beach, you could be put at risk’

Polly Lyons, Lifeguard Supervisor says: ‘Conditions at the beach can change quickly and, with inflatables not designed for the beach, you could be put at risk. 

Choose a lifeguarded beach and stick between the red and yellow flags. If you see an orange windsock flying, it means there is an offshore wind – never go out in any inflatable in an offshore wind.’

Kyle King, Helm at Blackpool, adds: ‘If you do bring an inflatable to the coast, you can help your young family stay safe by tethering it somewhere on land and staying close by. That way, if you start to drift out, someone can pull you back in. We’ll never stop people from using inflatables – but together we can prevent an event happening.’

You help us save lives at sea 

Thanks to your support, we’ll continue to reunite families like this one. With your help, we will also get safety messages through to other families, so that they don’t have to suffer what this father went through. Check out our beach safety tips for more advice.

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