EMERGENCY services yesterday warned youngsters to be careful near water over what is left of the summer, after a teenage prank resulted in a dramatic rescue for one boy.
HM Coastguard scrambled the lifeboat at around 6pm on Monday after the boy became stranded in the River Wear off Low Quay, Hendon, Sunderland.
The RNLI’s Atlantic 85 class lifeboat was called in to return the 14-year-old, who has not been named, to dry land after his ordeal.
He had clambered aboard a tender, a small dinghy, and cast it loose.
Paul Nicholson, senior helmsman at RNLI Sunderland, said: “The tender was no more than two to three metres long and this type of vessel can be quite unstable.
“It is unclear how or why he found himself aboard the tender while a group of five to 10 of his friends remained on the quayside, but he could have easily found himself in serious difficulty had he ended up falling into the river.”
Emergency crews found the boy on the tender some 10 metres from the river bank opposite Sunderland Glass Centre.
Rescue officer Neil Mearns said: “When we arrived the boy was actually standing up in the vessel, which could easily have capsized, trying to paddle it, and there was a real danger of him overbalancing and falling into the river.
“We suspect the whole thing was a prank that got out of hand and the lad was a little bit shocked, but this operation would have cost the authorities involved several hundreds of pounds, and the prankster could have been facing a serious charge of taking a vehicle without consent.”
Two Coastguard personnel and four RNLI volunteers were involved.
Mr Mearns said: “This boy had no life jacket and the consequences could have been far more serious.
“We must stress that it is very dangerous for anyone to mess about on or near boats or water, as they are at the mercy of tides and winds which can be very powerful and unpredictable.
“They also divert vital resources away from real life and death situations.”
The boy was allowed home after receiving safety instructions from the Coastguard.