A TEENAGER had to be rescued from lifeboat volunteers after friends burst his £50 inflatable dinghy with darts.
The 15-year-old from Pennywell was playing on the small inflatable dinghy next to Claxheugh Rock, South Hylton, when it was burst by his friends who were throwing rocks and darts at it from the riverbank.
The teenager was left stranded in the water, but was able to pull himself aboard a partially-sunken boat clear of the water.
The rescue mission was launched shortly after 6.10pm yesterday when Coastguard Officers based at Humber Coastguard Marine Rescue Coordination Centre received a 999 call from one of the group concerned about the safety of their friend who was stranded and quickly becoming cold.
Coastguard Officers immediately contacted Kristina Jameson, duty Launching Authority at Sunderland RNLI, to request the immediate launch of their D Class inshore lifeboat MyJo.
A shore-based Coastguard Rescue Team was also dispatched from Sunderland to assist with communications and liaise with the remainder of the group on the shore.
The lifeboat launched six minutes later with three volunteers under the command of Helmsman Ian Rowan.
On arrival the lifeboat volunteers discovered the inflatable had become entirely deflated and the teenager was crouched on top of the sunken boat; clear of the water; but starting to suffer from the cold.
The teenager was placed onboard the inshore lifeboat and transferred the short distance to shore where he was placed into the care of Coastguard Officers.
After being given a medical check-up at the scene, he was then placed into the care of police.
Earlier in the afternoon Officers onboard the Port of Sunderland water patrol boat had spoken to the group of teenagers to offer them advise stating that the craft they were using was unsuitable and that none of them were wearing the lifejackets.
Ian Rowan, Helmsman at Sunderland RNLI 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 there 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.”
As a registered charity the RNLI relies on voluntary donations and legacies from the public for its income.