Sea safety warning as couple on inflatable get into trouble near South Shields

The lifeguards' orange windsock, which indicates offshore winds. Credit: RNLI/Nathan Williams.
The lifeguards' orange windsock, which indicates offshore winds. Credit: RNLI/Nathan Williams.

Lifeguards have issued a safety warning over the use of inflatables in the sea after two people got into difficulty near South Shields.

RNLI lifeguards at Sandhaven Beach helped to bring a man and woman back to the shore after their giant flamingo inflatable was dragged out to sea.

The incident happened at about 2.30pm on Sunday, with lifeguards swinging into action to assist the young couple, aged 27 and 24 respectively.

The woman had begun swimming back to the shore while the man was trying to hang on to the inflatable about 40m off shore from the beach.

The inflatable was being taken further out to sea and outside of the red and yellow flags.

Lifeguards believed that although there were no strong offshore winds, the size of the inflatable meant it would not have taken long for the pair to be dragged even further out.

One RNLI lifeguard, Alex Gray, swam out on a rescue board to help the man and supported him onto the board before bringing him back to the beach.

A second lifeguard from the charity, Fergus Scherczer, swam out with a rescue tube to assist the woman, who was becoming exhausted as she attempted to swim back.

They both received aftercare from the lifeguards and an ambulance was called for the man, who needed more medical attention due to taking in water.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor Alex Richardson said: "The lifeguards did an amazing job and this is a strong example of how inflatables are not designed for the beach and can be very quickly blown offshore.

"However, if you do wish to use one, they should be tethered to the shore on a lifeguarded beach and only used between the red and yellow flags.

"It is also important to avoid taking inflatables out in big waves, and you should never use them when the orange windsock is flying as this indicates that there are offshore winds which will blow inflatables further out to sea."

The RNLI recently issued a safety warning to beach-goers as the heatwave had sparked a number of rescues involving inflatables, reminding people that the toys are designed for pools and not the sea.