Dramatic rescue as wind sweeps eight teenagers out to sea

A SUMMER day out by the sea almost ended in disaster when eight teenagers were swept out to sea by strong winds.

Six separate inflatables, including a dinghy and an airbed, were carried by unexpectedly strong gusts towards the Bass Rock, a mile off the East Lothian coast, yesterday.

North Berwick lifeboat was called out to rescue the youngsters, aged 13 to 14, one of whom required medical attention.

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The teenagers had floated to a rocky island just offshore when they got into trouble and were unable to return to shore.

One of them was left clinging to the rocks as the wind picked up and pulled the inflatable out towards the open sea.

The youngster was cut by barnacles when he tried to hold on, and he was given first aid by a member of the rescue team on the beach.

A member of the public called the Coastguard, and North Berwick Inshore Lifeboat and North Berwick Coastguard Rescue team were called to pick them up.

Steve Foley, of Forth Coastguard said yesterday: "There was an off-shore wind this afternoon, meaning illustrated anyone using inflatable airbeds or dinghies would be blown a long way out to sea."

He added: "We'd like to thank the person who raised the alarm and remind everyone that inflatables should be tied to someone on the shore to stop them floating away."

A spokesman said the incident showed the importance of taking care when playing with inflatables.

"These were all local kids from North Berwick and Gullane, and they really should have known better," he said.

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"Everybody can listen to weather forecasts, and it is important to stay within your depths.

"The difficulty is that once the wind gets up it can sweep you out to sea really fast," the spokesman went on.

"We have rescued children that have been a mile out to sea by the time we have got to them."

He said conditions could become unexpectedly dangerous whenever young people got too far out of their depth.

"Inflatables are readily available, they are cheap and easy to get hold of, but they are very flimsy," the spokesman said.

"It is important for people to remember that when they get out into open water things can really go wrong. "

And he stressed: "We recommend that people stay within their limits."

The lifeboats, which were staffed by volunteers, had to make three trips out to sea before all the youngsters were returned to land.

It took less than 40 minutes for all eight youngsters to be safely brought to shore.

None required hospital treatment for their injuries, and all were safely home with their families last night.