Warning issued over taking inflatables into the sea from Sunderland’s beaches and riverside
Coastal safety organisations are particularly concerned about the use of Harbour Beach (between Roker and Old North Piers), which is not a designated bathing beach unlike Roker and Seaburn.
This means that there are no permanent lifeguard patrols on hand to assist the public should they get into trouble in the water.
The warning comes four years after a 17-year-old drowned in the harbour while trying to save his friends after their inflatable began to sink.
Nick Ayers, the RNLI Regional Water Safety Lead, has warned that inflatables should be tethered to someone on land at all times if they are going to be used at the coast.
He said: "We always advise people to swim at a lifeguarded beach between the Red and Yellow flags. Never use inflatables when the orange windsock is flying, this signifies that the winds are too strong.
“If you do choose to use an inflatable at the coast, ensure that it is tethered to someone on land at all times. Inflatables can be picked up by the wind quickly."
Over the weekend, Sunderland City Council staff crewing the Port of Sunderland’s water patrol boat had to warn numerous people using inflatables off Harbour Beach.
Harbourmaster Captain Kevin Ullah, said: "Last weekend was particularly busy with a lot of people, including children, out in inflatable canoes, kayaks and on paddleboards, many of them not wearing suitable buoyancy aids or lifejackets.
"On the Saturday there was a particularly strong off-shore wind together with a dropping tide which had the effect of pushing people out to sea which could very easily have resulted in a tragedy.
"Inflatable paddle boards and kayaks have become really popular and people can now buy them quite cheaply and take them out to sea without having any idea of how to use them.
"But what they don't realise is that if they get a puncture they can very easily go under. The very last thing we want to see is another tragedy off our coast.
"All water-based leisure activities should therefore take place from beaches where RNLI lifeguards are on duty."