'Lucky escape' as father and son drift out to sea in dinghy
A father and son have been rescued after they were stranded out at sea in an "unsuitable" inflatable dinghy.
The RNLI issued a warning after a lifeboat crew had to be launched on Friday evening to rescue the men from the freezing water.
Their dinghy had been swamped by water and they ended up three-and-a-half miles from the lifeboat station, in the sea near Killyleagh Yacht Club.
They were rescued by members of the yacht club crew after their screams for help were heard on the shore.
One man had fallen from the dinghy and was found clinging to a moored vessel, while the other man was clinging to the dinghy that was drifting out to sea.
The volunteer lifeboat crew from Portaferry RNLI was launched at 7.07pm and found the men with the local boat crew.
The two casualties were taken to the Killyleagh Yacht Club, where one was treated for hypothermia by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service
The RNLI said that the inflatable dinghy was “totally unsuitable” for the open water, it was fitted with an outboard engine and showed signs of patching on the tube where a repair had been carried out.
Portaferry RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Brian Bailie said: “These two men had a lucky escape. If their cries for help had not been heard this could have been an awful tragedy. These types of craft are totally unsuitable for the open waters off our coast.” He added: “An inflatable dinghy which may be okay in a supervised indoor pool is not meant for the sea. Also the addition of the power from the attached outboard engine made an unsuitable craft even more dangerous.”
He urged other people to be responsible and check that they were using the proper equipment if they decide to take to the water.
“Conditions on the lough were quite calm on Friday with a force three and a slight sea, yet these people ended up in serious trouble. Thankfully they were wearing personal flotation devices but they spent some time in freezing cold water before their cries were heard and they were rescued,” he added.