Rescuers issue warning after dinghy blown out to sea

The people could not swim
The people could not swim
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Rescuers on the Fylde coast have pleaded with people to keep inflatable dinghies and rafts out of the sea – after a dramatic rescue involving four people who were blown almost 1km off the coast.

Beach lifeguard Luke Halstead, 19, was on patrol in Cleveleys alongside colleague Keelan Logan, 18, when a man yelled and said his friends were in trouble.

The Poulton teen, who was patrolling a half-mile stretch between Victoria Road and the cafe on the sand, could see the group 400m off the coast, and said: “The man said they couldn’t swim.

“There were four individuals and they were outside our zone, but we decided we could not just stand and watch.

“The tide was going out at the time and it had carried them out to sea. It can be quite strong and easily catch people out.”

Luke grabbed his kayak, called the Coastguard, and went into the chilly Irish Sea. Three of the four were clinging to the raft, and one was in the water around 20m away.

“He looked like he was struggling and going under, so I made the call to rescue him first,” Luke said. “I picked him up on the back of the kayak and made my way back to shore. Then I went back out.

“I got the three holding on to the kayak and made my way back to shore. One of them, a woman, started to have an asthma attack, probably brought on by the cold water and the situation she was in.”

Luke, a former Baines pupil and a human biology student at Salford University, said the casualties – in their 30s and 40s and from Blackburn – were handed over to paramedics as Coastguard and RNLI rescuers arrive during the drama on May 27.

Luke added: “They had got carried out to about 800m, and they were very worried so decided to turn the dinghy over and try and swim back – but they were not strong swimmers.

“You have to be careful of the tide. It can be surprisingly strong.”

Lytham and Blackpool’s Coastguard officer Paul Little said the same winds that bring the region glorious sunshine can also bring hazardous sea conditions, which can send dinghies away from the coast.

It means that, at a time when people are most tempted to relax on an inflatable raft or in a paddle-powered boat, they are almost most vulnerable to being blown off course.

“These things are not particularly good to go in the sea,” he said, urging people never to do it. “The whole idea is just a nightmare. They are for swimming pools or sheltered beaches where you don’t have to the same sort of tide range.”

The Coastguard recorded its busiest May on record with 31 jobs last month, and are on red alert for another action-packed summer. And rescuers on the Fylde coast are hoping to avoid tragedies such as the death of teen Michael Sheehan, who drowned while playing on a blow-up tyre in 2010.

He was in the water near Central Pier when he was swept away by the waves, with the 14-year-old’s body found hours later.

In a cruel twist of fate, a memorial to him placed on the pier 12 months later was later lost in storms too.

His heartbroken mum Alison Stirzaker, from Northampton, said her son was ‘very energetic and fun-loving’.

“He had big potential,” she said previously.