A DAD has thanked lifeboat crews who rescued his teenage son after he went missing for four hours in an inflatable dinghy with a man he had just met.
Humber Coastguard mounted a major rescue operation on Friday after Sean Clifton, 14, and the 33-year-old man drifted out to sea from Easington Colliery, with no safety equipment and just a pair of plastic oars.
The operation involved two lifeboats from Sunderland RNLI and a Sea King helicopter.
The pair were found just before dusk, one-and-a-half miles north-east of the dinghy’s launch point.
Sean’s father William said: “The lifeboat crews were absolutely fantastic. But for their prompt action and the co-ordinated nature of their search, the outcome could have been completely different.”
He added, his chastened son had “definitely learned his lesson” about getting into a dinghy with no safety equipment, and especially with a stranger.
Mr Clifton said: “Sean was in a state of shock after he was found and sorry for what he had put people through.
“He said he was playing with his friends in Easington Colliery when they saw a man struggling to pull the dinghy along. They gave him a hand to the beach and, as a thank-you, he offered Sean a ride.”
Mr Clifton added: “Sean would know better than to go off with a stranger, but because he was with three friends he felt secure.
“They paddled out, but only had two small plastic oars, which both broke.
“They tried to get back by paddling with their hands, but the tide and wind swept them out to sea. Sean had his mobile phone with him, but it became wet and wouldn’t work.”