LIFESAVERS endured one of their busiest weekends in years as they were called to carry out 26 rescues in one day as thousands of people flocked to the seaside.
As temperatures soared to 73 degrees Fahrenheit, Coastguard and Lifeboat teams attended a series of frightening incidents up and down the Fylde coast.
Saturday was the busiest day with a massive influx of 999 calls.
Blackpool RNLI had already launched twice on Friday evening within the space of an hour to rescue four people who had been swept out to sea in their inflatable dinghies.
And the emergency calls continued apace the following day, as the crews put their training into practice to rescue people stranded on boats, the sea steps and clinging to the stanchions of North Pier.
Bosses at Liverpool Coastguard – the base which handles incidents on the Fylde coast, said they dealt with 26 incidents in Blackpool, St Annes, Cleveleys and Bispham, including some of children reported missing, youngsters cut off by the tide and more people in inflatable dinghies misjudging strong easterly winds.
A spokesman for HM Coastguard told The Gazette: “If you’re with children on the beach, have to make sure you know where they are at all times.
“People should also be aware of the dangers when it comes to inflatable toys. If you have a dinghy, make sure it is secured to the shore.
“If you can’t do that, you should not get in the water.”
RNLI volunteer lifeboat helmsman Shaun Wright, who attended both Friday’s incidents, said the four men involved were fortunate not to have faced more serious consequences.
He added: “Inflatables can be swept out to sea with very little warning particularly when there is a strong offshore wind.
“It was lucky on this occasion the two inflatables and their occupants were spotted as they were swept out to sea and we were able to reach them quickly and return them to the beach safe and well.”
The warning came after a man drowned in West Wittering, West Sussex, while rescuing a four-year-old from the water after he saw the child struggling in a rubber ring.
The man’s death was one of six water fatalities nationally over the weekend
A 15-year-old boy died last night in Chorley.
Police and firefighters were called to a reservoir off Birkacre Brow, at Yarrow Valley Park, at around 7.40pm when the boy who was swimming disappeared from sight.
The body of the boy, who is believed to live locally, was recovered several hours later by police divers..
Blackpool Council also moved to warn residents and holidaymakers of the sea’s dangers.
Coun Gary Coleman (inset), cabinet member with responsibility for sea safety, said: “People have to show common sense because inflatables are not toys and can be very dangerous if they are used incorrectly.
“It only takes a few a seconds for children to disappear and if they are on inflatables it can get a lot worse.
“We all like to enjoy ourselves when the weather is nice, but you have got to bear in mind your actions could have serious consequences if you don’t show respect for the conditions.
“We also have to think about the cost incurred by those people who are trying to save them.
“They are volunteers and are trying to help, but people have to think.”
Nobody was seriously injured throughout the weekend, but a man who became trapped under North Pier was treated for cuts and bruises.
He was rescued from the stanchions beneath the pier by Blackpool RNLI, half an hour after the same crew had returned from helping two small vessels to safety when they suffered engine failure in the sea off South Pier and in Bispham.
The man was spotted clinging to the legs of the structure as the lifeboat crew was scanning the coast for anyone else in danger as they came back to shore.
He was taken to safety but the team was called out again less than 15 minutes later to youngsters who had started to get into difficulty in an inflatable dinghy.
In St Annes, the coastguard helped locate six children who were lost on the beach while they were with their families close to St Annes Pier.
The youngest was a six-year-old girl who was found shortly after the desperate family reported her missing.
Three youngsters also went missing on Sunday and searches were conducted on South Pier and twice on North Pier by the coastguard, before they were found safe and well.
Blackpool RNLI crew member Paul Scott said: “This weekend has been extremely busy for Blackpool’s RNLI volunteers.
“The glorious sunshine brought lots of people to the beach at Blackpool which is fantastic but we would just ask that everyone remembers the sea can be dangerous.
“It’s important to be mindful of the risks, especially where small inflatables and boats are concerned.
“A strong offshore wind or current can quickly drag them away from the beach and into danger.”