THIS is the £50 dinghy sunk by darts in the River Wear on April Fool’s Day.
Coastguard chiefs have slammed teenage pranksters after a 15-year-old had to be rescued when pals burst the cheap inflatable boat.
The youngster, from Pennywell, had only just bought the inflatable boat from Argos when he took to the River Wear, near Claxheugh Rock, South Hylton. Officers from
the Port of Sunderland’s water patrol boat warned him and his friends about the dangers of being in the water in an unsuitable vessel, but once the crew had gone, he got back in.
Life crews were later scrambled when the teenager was stranded in the freezing water after friends threw darts and rocks at his dinghy, causing it to deflate. The boy was found clinging on to a partially sunken boat which so happened to already be in the water.
Sunderland coastguard rescue officer Neil Mearns today said the prank could have resulted in tragedy.
He said: “The lad was on the submerged boat, which had been there for some time, which was very fortunate for him because he would have been in severe trouble had it not been there.
“At the very least he would have suffered severe hypothermia as he waited for rescue and he could have easily drowned. The type of dinghy he was using was completely unsuitable for tidal waters. It’s the kind of thing that should be used in swimming pools or on the beach where it is tethered to the coast.”
The rescue mission was launched shortly after 6.10pm on Monday, April Fools Day, when one of the teenagers called 999.
The Sunderland RNLI lifeboat was scrambled and a shore-based coastguard rescue team was dispatched from Sunderland to liaise with the remainder of the group on the shore.
The lifeboat launched with three volunteers onboard under the command of helmsman Ian Rowan.
He said: “This incident had the potential to turn into a practical joke, leading to a fatality.
“The group not only ignored the safety advice of the water patrol officers, but then tried and succeeded in deliberately bursting the boat that their friend was floating in.
“Added to this the fact that they were not wearing lifejackets, everyone was very lucky that this incident did not result in a near fatality.”
The teenager was taken back to the shore where he was given a medical check-up before being handed over to police, who took him home.
Paul Nicholson, senior helmsman at Sunderland RNLI, added: “By not following advice given by the water patrol team, these teenagers tied up valuable emergency service resources, which may have been needed elsewhere, including our volunteers who are taken away from their families and their normal lives.”