RNLI issues safety warning after heatwave leads to spate of inflatable rescues

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI has urged beachgoers to stay safe if they head to the beach with their inflatables during the current hot weather.

With people flocking to the coast there has been a spike in the number of people having to be rescued from a wide range of inflatables – ranging from unicorns, flamingos to inflatable boats.

One lifeboat station in Hampshire had to be called out to rescue four people from inflatables in trouble in just one day.

Jon Oxenham, Community Safety Product Manager for the RNLI said, ‘Inflatables aren’t designed for the beach, and it is easy to find yourself quickly swept out to sea.

‘If you do choose to use them, we would like to remind people that they’re used near the shore and only between the red and yellow flags on lifeguarded beaches and to ensure their children are safely supervised. Never take inflatables out in big waves, and never use them when the orange windsock is flying as this indicates offshore winds which will blow inflatables further out to sea.

‘Whenever you take to the sea we recommended that you and your children wear a suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid. This will provide the necessary flotation should the inflatable suffer a puncture or similar.’

The hot weather has also meant that other lifeboat stations around the country have been busy rescuing people who have been blown out to sea on inflatables.

On Friday evening, the volunteer crew at Largs (Scotland) were called out to reports of an inflatable dinghy with two children on board struggling to get back to shore. On Saturday, the volunteer crew at Cullercoats (Tyne and Wear) launched to reports of two children floating out to sea on an inflatable boat, meanwhile in Blackpool, lifeboat volunteers rescued a teenager on an inflatable boat that had blown offshore. Southend (Essex) lifeboat volunteers also launched to a drifting inflatable dinghy on Saturday. On Sunday, the volunteers at Moelfre (Wales) assisted three young people drifting out to sea on an inflatable kayak, Kinghorn (Scotland) RNLI were called to a seven-year-old being blown out to sea on an inflatable toy and the volunteers at Barmouth (Wales) attended an inflatable unicorn floating off into the sunset (fortunately with no one on board).

Call outs to inflatables continued on Monday, with the volunteers at Hayling Island RNLI and Portsmouth RNLI (Hampshire) called out to a white unicorn floating out to sea. On the way, they recovered a flamingo inflatable (with no one on board) and assisted an inflatable dinghy with two people on board and an inflatable kayak with one person in the water clinging on and unable to swim, with the other occupant having made it ashore. A full scale search involving three lifeboats and a UK Coastguard helicopter was launched in case someone had been on board the flamingo. The flamingo was later reported abandoned.

Thankfully these were all resolved and the people (and flamingo and unicorn) returned safely to dry land. However, it could have been a very different outcome. The RNLI is reminding people that blow-up toys and airbeds are designed for pools and not the sea where they can easily be swept out.

You can find your nearest RNLI lifeguarded beach here: https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches


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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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