THREE youngsters are lucky to alive after they plunged into the River Wear after sinking booze.
They ended up in the freezing water after their boat capsized at Panns Bank.
The friends had to be taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital, suffering from the early signs of hypothermia.
Humber Coastguard requested the immediate launch of Sunderland RNLI’s two inshore lifeboats, after a 999 call reporting three young men struggling in the water near Wearmouth Bridge.
Their small tender overturned as they attempted to get back ashore from a family member’s fishing boat, where they and two others had spent the night drinking alcohol.
With help from their friends, the three managed to get themselves out of the water into a nearby boat.
“On arrival we were able to confirm that all of the group were safely out of the water,” said Mark Cleminson, helmsman at Sunderland RNLI.
“But three of the group were suffering from the effects of the cold.
“After carrying out an initial assessment on each of them it was decided to prioritise the evacuation of two of them.”
The pair were taken to Sunderland Marina by the D-class Lifeboat.
Their pals followed shortly after in the Atlantic 75 class.
The incident happened in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Officers from Northumbria Police and the North East Ambulance Service visited the scene.
Three of the young men needed treatment at Sunderland Royal Hospital, with one carried away on a stretcher.
Mr Cleminson said: “This incident highlights the dangers of taking part in activities on the water after consuming alcohol.
“The RNLI strongly recommends that people do not take part in water-based activities after drinking alcohol.
“Drinking and seawater just don’t mix, and cold water shock to the system can also bring on hypothermia very quickly.”
Police sniffer dogs were called into action to trace a possible sixth person, after a trail of footprints were spotted leading away from steps at the side of the river.
It was feared someone had wandered off and collapsed.
Officers followed the trail over Wearmouth before deciding the prints were not linked to the incident.