by Terry Bearpark
Seven people were involved in dramatic rescues off the coast at Withernsea on Saturday, thanks to sharp-eyed members of the public who contacted the Coastguard.
In the first incident, at noon, an inflatable was spotted in difficulties off the resort being blown out to sea, and after the initial call Withernsea lifeboat was launched to go to its aid, arriving on scene within 15 minutes.
Although the original report said that there were four occupants in the dinghy, crew members found that there were actually five members of a family from Hull being pushed out to sea in a strong offshore wind, almost two miles from the beach.
On arrival the family were given lifejackets to wear and two of the younger members were brought ashore. The lifeboat immediately returned to bring the remaining three family members and their dinghy back to the shore to the central slipway where they were met by members of Withernsea Coastguard who wrapped them in blankets, gave them water and checked them out for possible medical conditions.
None of the occupants was suitably dressed or wearing lifejackets in the dinghy.
In the early evening, another inflatable dinghy with two youths aboard was spotted in difficulties by a member of the public about 750 yards off the Pier Towers. Again, a call via 999 to the Coastguard saw Withernsea lifeboat launched to go to their rescue, and the dinghy with its occupants was safely landed at the Southcliff Road slipway. Withernsea Coastguard was again on hand to check out the occupants, who were well despite their ordeal.
Withernsea Lifeboat operations manager Steve Medcalf said: “It was a busy day for our volunteer crew members, but they responded to the calls very quickly and potentially saved seven lives. Our skilled crews train constantly, and this has certainly paid off with the swift and successful rescues.
“The sea really isn’t the place for these inflatable dinghies, and they should be left at home. However, if they are brought to the seaside they should be tethered to the shore under supervision, and certainly not used if the red flags are flying. These incidents could have had a completely different outcome if it were not for the members of the public who alerted us by dialling 999 and asking for the Coastguard.”
A Coastguard spokesman said: “Unicorns and other inflatables might look like fun, but they pose a real danger at the beach. If tides are going out and the wind is blowing offshore (from land to sea), you can easily be swept out to sea in a matter of seconds. So please leave these toys for the pool.
“If you are heading to the beach with your family this weekend, follow our safety tips below and visit the Met Office website for the latest weather warnings at metoffice.gov.uk.
“Choose a lifeguarded beach, swim between the red and yellow flags, supervise children closely at all times, leave inflatables at home. If you take to the sea, wear a suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
“If you find yourself being blown out to sea, shout for help and wave your arms if you can, or if you unexpectedly fall into the water remember the RNLI’s advice and #FloatToLive: rnli.org/safety/float.
“In an emergency at the coast, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”