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‘Recipe for disaster’ - Warning issued after girl swept out to sea on inflatable

PUBLISHED: 16:28 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:28 27 July 2020

Tim Grimmer, 55, senior helmsman at Happisburgh Lifeboat Station, has warned bathers about the dangers of inflatables after a girl was swept out to sea at Sea Palling on July 26. Picture: RNLI Happisburgh/Denise Bradley.

Tim Grimmer, 55, senior helmsman at Happisburgh Lifeboat Station, has warned bathers about the dangers of inflatables after a girl was swept out to sea at Sea Palling on July 26. Picture: RNLI Happisburgh/Denise Bradley.

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A lifeboat helmsman has warned bathers about the dangers of inflatables after strong winds swept a girl out to sea.

Sea Palling beach where the RNLI lifeguards are back on duty. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSea Palling beach where the RNLI lifeguards are back on duty. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Tim Grimmer, 55, senior helmsman at Happisburgh Lifeboat Station, said he was walking along the beach at Sea Palling on Sunday (July 26) when he saw an inflatable “travelling at frightening speed out to sea”.

“It had a blow-up unicorn which was acting as a sail, and had a little girl on it,” he said.

Mr Grimmer called 999 and asked for the coastguard.

He said the girl, who was about four to five-years-old, was blown across the bay and out through the reefs before ending up about 350 to 400 yards away from the shore.

Tim Grimmer. Picture: RNLI HappisburghTim Grimmer. Picture: RNLI Happisburgh

A man on a raft rowed out to the girl, followed by two surfers paddling on their boards, he said.

“It took the man on the raft about half an hour to bring the girl back to shore. When they got back to the beach the girl was pretty shocked and crying, her mum was crying,” Mr Grimmer said, adding: “The guy who rowed out in the little raft, I give him all the credit.”

He said the girl had been playing in the shallows while the wind was blowing from the land out to sea.

“Offshore winds with these inflatables are a recipe for disaster,” he warned.

Mr Grimmer was “amazed” at the number of people on inflatables in an unpatrolled area away from the RNLI Lifeguards.

He said he saw many people being caught by the wind and struggling to get back to the beach, as well as children entering the sea by signs warning of the dangers of rip currents and stating not to enter the water.

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Happisburgh Lifeboat was stood down by Coastguard before they launched.

Mr Grimmer said there has already been a number of these types of incidents in the past few weeks, which so far have ended well, but if people don’t heed the advice of the RNLI and Coastguard it will “end in a very sad and upsetting way”.

The RNLI and Coastguard are urging people not to use inflatables on the sea, as they are meant for swimming pools.


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