DRAMATIC pictures show a teenage boy swept into the sea as he take part in a life-threatening new craze.
The 14-year-old was dragged into the water off Hendon Promenade yesterday as he and a pal diced with death.
Despite danger signs just metres away, the pair deliberately held on to railings trying to resist 20ft waves in what a coastguard officer described as one of the most foolhardy acts he had ever come across.
The pair had been playing on the beach ramp at the north end of the promenade at 5pm. They were spotted hanging onto railings by shocked passers-by, as the force of the waves swept them into the air.
One of the teens, from Ryhope, was dragged into the sea as his pal managed to cling on.
The force of the water pushed the youth back to the slipway, leaving him shocked but uninjured.
Coastguard rescue officer Neil Mearns said: “What is particularly worrying is that these boys had not been accidentally caught out by the waves, but were apparently deliberately clinging to the railings in an attempt to withstand the full force of the sea.
“One of them seems to have been dragged into the water before being swept back onto the ramp, while the other has somehow managed to maintain his grip on the rail.
“Both of these boys have been incredibly lucky to escape with their lives. It is amazing that we are not dealing with a double-fatality. This is one of the most foolhardy acts that I have ever come across in eight years service as a volunteer Coastguard.”
Five years ago, Southmoor School pupil Mark Langton was swept to his death by a 15ft wave as he played with pals on a slipway during the first day of the Easter holidays. While on September 13, 1996, Jonathan Bernardi died after he was swept out to sea after losing his footing on the ramp.
Mr Mearns said: “With all the publicity surrounding these incidents, it is staggering that youths are still placing themselves in such danger.”
With hundreds of people now enjoying the summer sunshine, emergency service bosses are asking parents to make their children aware of the dangers of playing close to the sea.
Mr Mearns said: “I would appeal to parents and schools to do everything in their power to get the safety message across and prevent further tragedies from happening.”
The incident occurred less than an hour before high water. Police were called to the scene and all the youths involved were warned about their actions.
•In a separate incident, a 15-year-old Pennywell boy was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital yesterday after being rescued by RNLI lifeguards at Roker Beach. It is understood that he got into difficulties while swimming in the sea shortly after 6pm and that his condition is not serious.