LIFEBOAT bosses have urged sunseekers not to take inflatable pool toys to Scottish beaches after a spate of callouts from concerned locals to retrieve them when they were blown out to sea.
East coast rescue crews have responded to four calls about lilos being blown off shore in the past eight days.
A major operation involving the Coastguard’s helicopter was launched in Portobello on Sunday evening after witnesses on the beach raised concern over the welfare of three children when a lilo was spotted around 700m adrift of the beach.
Volunteer crews from Kinghorn, Fisherrow, North Berwick and South Queensferry lifeboat stations were all involved during the three-hour search, which was sparked after worried local residents saw the lilo slowly drifting out to sea.
The Coastguard helicopter was scrambled from Prestwick to assist in the operation, which featured dozens of lifeboat staff. However it was later confirmed to be a false alarm, with crews recovering an empty puffin lilo from the water. The search was stood down following discussion with witnesses on the beach.
Hundreds of locals have flocked to the coast to enjoy the summer heatwave over the past few days, with the Capital baking in temperatures of around 25C.
It was the second incident to happen on the beach over the weekend, with lifeboat crews also discovering a pink flamingo inflatable during a callout on Friday evening.
Last Saturday, a young girl was caught adrift on a lilo off the coast of Longniddry in East Lothian, though had been safely returned to shore and checked over by ambulance crews by the time lifeboat teams arrived.
And the chief of one lifeboat station has warned resources are being “wasted” on the searches.
Kinghorn Lifeboat helm Neil Chalmers called on beach-goers to be more responsible when in the water.
Speaking after the search at Portobello concluded, Mr Chalmers said: “Due to the incomplete information available, and the possibility of someone being in the water, an extensive search was launched.”
“The coastguard will always err on the side of caution.”
He continued: “These inflatable toys are not suitable for use at the beach and we would urge parents not to take them to the beach.”
“These toys are easily blown by the wind and can quickly move offshore, particularly with young children.
“The young girl at Longniddry had a lucky escape but had to be checked out by an ambulance crew once she made it back to shore.”
The Kinghorn crew was also called out to respond to reports of an inflatable adrift off Kirkcaldy in Fife last week.
Mr Chalmers added: “If you do choose to take them to the beach, these toys should be securely tethered to the shore, and they should certainly not be used when the wind is blowing away from the beach.”
“If you spot an inflatable drifting at sea, or one you are using gets blown away, you should report it to the Coastguard on 999 immediately, giving as much information as possible.”
“This will mean the toy can be recovered and prevent a larger search being launched.”