Inflatable boats are ‘floating killers’ , water safety body warns

RNLI outlines call-outs involving 16 people on cheap crafts over summer period

Three children who drifted almost 30km in a floating toy are among the call-outs involving 16 people in cheap inflatable boats and swimming aids which the RNLI have dealt with this summer.
Cheap inflatable boats have been described by Irish Water Safety as "floating killers" as it urged people not to use them at sea or in open water.

Figures released by Irish Water Safety revealed 301 people were rescued from crafts on the sea, rivers and lakes in the State during July.

However these figures do not make the distinction between safe rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and the cheap inflatable boats which can be bought in supermarkets and hardware shops for less than €50.

The RNLI has urged people to take particular care in the water over the bank holiday weekend. While it was unable to give numbers of rescues involving such boats, it outlined six incidents it was called to involving 16 people this summer.


Among these were three children aged 10, 11 and 14, who drifted out to sea on July 6th, on an inflatable toy, to Cloughey Bay Co Down, almost 30km away. The children were brought ashore by the Coast Guard.

A man was rescued by RNLI Portrush after he was carried out on a rubber ring from White Rocks beach on July 14th.

Last Friday the alarm was raised in Tramore, Co Waterford, after three men were seen out at sea without lifejackets on a homemade raft. The RNLI crew and Coast Guard helicopter convinced them to return to shore with the lifeboat.

Another incident saw three people getting into trouble at Portmuck near Islandmagee. A man tried to help a woman and child who had been blown out to sea on an inflatable dinghy but was unable to reach them. Larne RNLI rescued the dinghy about 1.5km from the shore, along with the exhausted swimmer.
"Inflatable toys are great fun in pools, but we strongly advise against using them in the sea, as there is a high chance of being swept out," the RNLI said.

John Leech, chief executive of Irish Water Safety, said: "We don't tolerate their use at all, not even under adult supervision."

Inflatables were much more dangerous on Irish coasts than in the Mediterranean, he said, because of the different conditions. Tides in Ireland were much stronger, with spring tides in recent weeks meaning four metres of water was going in and out every six hours.

Irish Water Safety figures show that its lifeguards rescued 559 casualties from beaches, rivers and lakes during July. This is 160 more than for last year’s entire bathing season.

Genevieve Carbery

Genevieve Carbery

Genevieve Carbery is Deputy Head of Audience at The Irish Times