Inflatables are the latest must-have accessory for your holiday, from flamingos to unicorns there are loads on the market. But the much-loved unicorn-shaped floats are fuelling fears that a tragedy may occur at the seaside this summer.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has warned that the popular unicorn blow-up toy can act like a sail and easily sweep kids out to sea in seconds with a strong gust of wind.
The unicorn floats are expected to lead to an increase in emergency calls, as a record number were made last year.
RNLI’s Ross Macleod warned that these much-loved floats ‘could easily end in tragedy’.
‘People don’t appreciate these simply aren’t designed for the sea,’ he added. ‘They’re basically massive sails which can whisk you miles out to sea in seconds.’
Last year, the organisation were involved in 479 sea rescues involving inflatables, which was nearly double compared to the previous year.
It’s easy to get your hands on inflatables for as little as a fiver, and the toys rarely come with safety precautions.
The RNLI is urging parents that kids should only use these in swimming pools where there are lifeguards on duty, and they should not be taken to the beach or coastline.
Rik Bartholomew’s five-year-old daughter, Hayley, was scarily swept out to sea on an inflatable swan.
After the traumatic event, Rik said: ‘I seriously thought I’d never see our daughter alive again.’
Just last week, eight-year-old Declan O’Connor drifted out to sea for half a mile on an inflatable pool toy in North Carolina, and had to be rescued by Oak Island Water Rescue team.
Declan told AVC news: ‘I was really scared and thinking like I might die and all that stuff.’
The rescue service issued a warning on Facebook to other float users.
The post said: ‘Yesterday OIWR rescued a child who was on a unicorn raft, hundreds of yards off the beach. We’d like to share some safety tips and photos from that event.
‘We all know floats have the potential to be dangerous, whether in the pool or ocean. Some beaches allow their use, while others do not. As we also know, the water itself can be dangerous.
‘Certain things such as a lifejacket, close adult supervision, and water survival skills help reduce the danger of water in general.’
No doubt kids will want to play with inflatables this summer – just make sure they take their inflatable toy to a pool rather than the beach, and are supervised at all times.
Happy (and safe) floating!