Mother warns of dinghies after son and friend taken to sea near Dunbar
A WOMAN whose son and his friend were taken to sea before being rescued warned of the dangers of rubber dinghies.
Laura Gallagher, 31, of Dunbar in East Lothian spoke yesterday to sound the warning on behalf of Dunbar Lifeboat and spoke of her desperate attempts to save the boys.
She swam for an hour to keep pace with the light craft and reassure the children who were crying and fearful of dying after she slipped away from him in the shallow waters of Thorntonloch beach in East Lothian.
Laura said: âOne moment they were right by my side and the next they were blown away. It all happened in an instant. ”
Pharmacy manager Laura was looking forward to an afternoon at the beach when she arrived in Thorntonloch at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, with her husband Kern, 34, their sons Nathan, seven and four, Jamie, and their friends Sarah. and Robert Keenan and their son Findlay, also seven. Both families live in the nearby town of Dunbar and know the area well.
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But after just ten minutes what should have been a fun family day turned into a nightmare.
Laura said: âIt’s a beach we go to all the time. I had even been there earlier that week with the kids and the canoe. It was harder that day but with light winds and I had kept them all the time.
âThat Saturday we set up a base and the husbands took out the picnic while the children went down to the sea with the mothers.
âIt was windy but the sea was calmer than before. That’s why I made the mistake of not holding on.
âThe three children were in the boat at the start. They were playing three feet away from Sarah and me. Then Nathan got out and maybe it was the change in weight that lifted him up – but the boat took off.
âI went in after them, but I quickly realized that I had to swim. I had my costume on so I took off my dress and walked in after them.
âI was sure I was going to hit them. They were only about two meters away but I couldn’t close the gap. I was swimming in breaststroke and switched to the front crawl to try to speed up.
âThey kept moving away from me.
âI looked around and realized how far we were from the shore. Sarah and my husband had started swimming too but stopped because they were not good swimmers.
âThen I saw another man in a wetsuit swimming from another angle. I thought he could reach them but they were too far for him too.
“I called out to shore, ‘Did you call the lifeboat? I think a few people on the beach had already called for help.
âI had to keep swimming. The boys were crying now. Findlay said, “Am I going to die?” “I screamed at them, ‘I’m right here, I’m right here. Hold on to each other. Stay in the boat. You are not going to die. “They were only two meters from me, but now they were 50 meters away.”
Fortunately, a guard vessel for a âwalkingâ barge carrying out geotechnical surveys for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm was in the area. The crew saw what was going on and came to their aid.
Laura said: âI saw the boat coming towards them and I yelled at the boys that it was coming to get them. The boat gave them a large berth. There were men on either side and they managed to take the canoe and get them and the boat out.
But she added: “We took them to meet the workers in Eyemouth and they took the boys back on board and I think that really helped them overcome their fear.”
She said of the inflatable boat: âWe bought it on vacation in Portugal and brought it home. I would never do anything to endanger my children, but it never occurred to me that something like this could happen so quickly.
âI blame myself but I was only a yard away – that’s the speed at which something like this can happen.
The canoe went in the trash. The boys joined in and it was well and truly a kick before we threw it. ”
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Laura added: âI would just like to say thank you to the crew of the ship that rescued us, the crew of the RNLI lifeboat, who helped us disembark and were very reassuring, and we are grateful to the owner of the caravan and the others on the beach who called the coast guard.
Dunbar Lifeboat coxswain Gary Fairbairn said: âWe want people to have fun at the beach, but Laura’s story shows how quickly things can get very dangerous. Fortunately, the guard ship was nearby to help.
âInflatable boats look fun, but they are not suitable for our beaches where strong offshore winds can pick up at any time.
âWe are grateful to Laura for sharing her story as a warning to others.