Rescue of twin sisters from inflatable brings number to 100 this year

Lifeboats News Release

The lifesaving charity is reminding people of safety advice for using inflatables in the water following a major rescue operation to find 12-year-old twin sisters, who were blown out to sea on an inflatable unicorn earlier this week.

RNLI/Nick Smith

The family meeting the crew at Margate RNLI

This rescue brings the number of people rescued by the RNLI from inflatable-related incidents into triple figures.

On Monday (29 July), the volunteer RNLI lifeboat crews at Margate and Ramsgate were called out to reports of missing children on an inflatable at 1.16pm, along with the UK Coastguard rescue helicopter from Lydd Airport and Margate Coastguard Rescue team.

The inflatable had been caught by a gust of wind and blown out rapidly to sea. The girls’ father attempted to swim after them but was unable to reach them, and subsequently began to struggle as well. The Margate volunteer lifeboat crew quickly located the empty inflatable unicorn, followed by the girls’ father, Ben Taylor.

Ben said: ‘The girls were suddenly blown out to sea, it happened so quickly. I got into the water and started swimming to try and get to them but they were already too far out. I felt the water change, it was terrifying. As a parent, it’s the scariest thing that can ever happen.’

The young girls, who had spoken to the RNLI Face-to-Face Fundraising team at Margate the day before and learned about the RNLI’s Float to Live safety advice, decided to enter the water and float so as not to drift out further with the inflatable. They alternated swimming and floating when they got tired and screamed for help when they could.

RNLI Lifeguard, Josh Jones, heard the girls screaming from a neighbouring beach and paddled out to them. When he reached them, the girls had been assisted by a public boat and taken aboard the vessel. The lifeboat arrived shortly afterwards and the girls were reunited with their father.

Ben said: ‘I’m so grateful to Josh, the RNLI lifeboat crew, and to the people on the boat that helped the girls out of the water. We’ve since been to the Margate lifeboat station and had the opportunity to thank the crew in person. They were so kind and welcoming to us. We are so grateful to them.’

The casualties were taken to the lifeguard hut to be attended to by the Senior Lifeguard, Ellie Hopper. Although all three had swallowed significant amounts of sea water, they had not sustained further injury. They were then handed over to the care of paramedics at 2.21pm.

RNLI Community Safety Partner, Guy Addington, said: ‘The two girls did very well to remember our safety information and to keep together. We advise people not to use inflatables in the sea, as they are really designed for swimming pools. Due to their inflatable nature, they can easily be swept out to sea, as happened in this case.

‘We are pleased that the girls remembered our Float to Live advice, but we only advise getting out of the inflatable if you are still close to the shore and a strong swimmer. If not, we advise people to stay with the inflatable as it will keep you above water and makes you more visible.’

The last week has seen the RNLI called to a number of rescues from incidents involving inflatables across the UK. Strong offshore winds saw volunteer crew in Looe, Cornwall called out to three separate inflatable incidents on Sunday (28 July). Last Friday (27 July), two teenagers were rescued by an RNLI lifeguard in Prestatyn after strong winds blew their inflatable out to sea, while the Minehead volunteer lifeboat crew launched three times in one day as multiple inflatables were blown offshore.

RNLI lifeboats from Redcar were called to three emergencies involving inflatables over Wednesday and Thursday last week (24-25 July). One incident saw two children, aged 16 and six carried out to sea near Saltburn Pier. The children were luckily brought back to shore by other rescuers. Another call saw two further children blown a mile out to sea on an inflatable from the beach at Coatham. Redcar’s inshore lifeboat was launched and found the children, who had drifted approximately a mile due to the combined effects of the wind and tide.

The RNLI offers the following safety advice for using inflatables in the sea:

  • ensure children are closely supervised
  • keep near the shore
  • only use between the red and yellow beach flags
  • follow the lifeguard’s advice
  • do not take inflatables out in big waves
  • never use them when the orange windsock is flying, as this indicates offshore winds which will blow inflatables further out to sea
  • if you do get into difficulty, then stay with your inflatable as it will keep you above the water.

You can find more information about the RNLI’s Float to Live campaign here:

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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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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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