Swimmer riding unicorn rescued after drifting into shipping lane

Helicopter is scrambled to rescue a swimmer who drifted 1,300 feet away from shore and into shipping lanes on an inflatable UNICORN as craze for floating creatures soars

  • Swimmer drifted 400 metres off-shore into ‘one of the busiest waterways in the world’ in the Solent, which separates the Isle of Wight from Hampshire mainland
  •  In another incident at Hayling Island in Hampshire the RNLI were scrambled
  •  15 people have been rescued from inflatables including a pink flamingo rider
  • The coastguard has warned winds and tides make the creatures ‘deadly’ at sea 

A helicopter had to be scrambled to rescue a swimmer who drifted into shipping lanes on an inflatable unicorn which caused chaos off the south coast.

The Coastguard search and rescue helicopter went to the aid of the unicorn rider who had been blown 400 metres off shore and into one of the ‘busiest waterways in the world’.

They were just one of 15 people who had to be rescued from inflatables, including a bright pink flamingo rider.

The unicorn had drifted in the Solent, which separates the Isle of Wight from the Hampshire mainland, and is a major shipping lane used by passenger, freight and military vessels.

Kevin Paterson from the Ardrossan Coastguard Rescue Team with the inflatable unicorn. A helicopter had to be scrambled to rescue the swimmer who drifted into shipping lanes off the south coast

In total three lifeboats have been used to collect a total of 18 inflatables, including dinghies, flamingos and swans.

Others are believed to have been blown so far out to sea they will wash up in France.

The coastguard has warned winds and tides make the blow-up creatures ‘deadly’ when used at sea, as people underestimate the strength of offshore breeze and tide patterns. 

The unicorn rider has been blown 400 metres off shore and into one of the busiest waterways in the world

 Hillhead Coastguard Rescue Team, based between Portsmouth Harbour and the River Itchen, Hants, tweeted: ‘Tasked to a person blown over 400m from shore into one of the busiest waterways in the world on an inflatable unicorn.

‘Luckily a passing kayaker assisted until gosport ILB recovered the casualty safely to shore.’

Despite the potential danger they are the latest must have summer accessory,  with holiday-makers happily uploading pictures of themselves to social media riding a giant unicorn or cheesy slice of pizza.

England stars Jesse Lingard and Jordan Pickford playing with the inflatable unicorns in the pool during a recovery session in Repino, near St Petersburg, Russia

Instagram is already filled with thousands of pictures of people on a dazzling array of inflatables- including celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Reece Wetherspoon and Emily Ratajkowski. 

The craze doesn’t just involve unicorns, retailers are also selling toucans, flamingos, a whole giant pizza, an avocado, lobsters, cacti and swans.

Even our England World Cup heroes got in on the action when they were spotted racing the unicorns during a training exercise at their base in Repino, near Saint Petersburg.  

You can pick up one of the unicorns for as little as £10 at Primark, with a slice of inflatable pizza setting you back £15 in Asda. 

The unicorns are popular on social media, with people using the hashtag #inflatableunicorn on Instagram to post pictures of their shenanigans

A team from Hayling Island Lifeboat Station, Hants, called out to another inflatable unicorn, discovered a pink plastic flamingo on their way out to sea, and a person clinging to a yellow buoy.

A spokesman wrote on social media: ‘A major search was underway yesterday evening in Hayling Bay by both Hayling Lifeboats, Portsmouth Lifeboat and a Rescue Helicopter.

‘The initial tasking was a White Unicorn drifting out to sea, possibly with someone on it.

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‘On route to this the lifeboat captured a loose Pink Flamingo and brought it on-board.

‘Shortly after that the lifeboat crew came across an inflatable kayak, a dingy, and one person in the water clinging to a yellow buoy.

‘Further information was then received that there was a real possibility of someone being on the Pink Flamingo prior to it being picked up, so all 3 lifeboats and the helicopter commenced a search of the entire bay.

The coastguard in Hayling Island, Hampshire, were scrambled after reports there was a flamingo in the water

‘Just before sunset the lifeboats and helicopter were stood down by the coastguard, pending any further information.

‘There’s no doubt there were lives saved last night.’

One onlooker, who called for help from the beach, said someone on an inflatable had ‘drifted quite far quite quickly in 10 minutes’, according to a spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The spokeswoman said: ‘Some of the inflatables were collected by our teams, some will have made their way over to France.’

The rescue team wasted hours going out to check inflatables that had been abandoned in the water, and warned members of the public not to take them into the sea.

The spokeswoman said: ‘At around 8.20pm at Hayling Island, Hants, there was a call saying there’s a flamingo in the water – they had no idea if there was anyone on it.

The RNLI has warned the inflatables should only really be used in swimming pools and not at the seaside

‘There was nobody there, and they collected the flamingo – that took about half an hour to sort out.’

HM Coastguard duty controller Piers Stanbury said: ‘We’ve had people rescued from a number of beaches along Hampshire and Sussex coastline.

‘Each one of them had been using an inflatable. Thankfully, everyone so far has been rescued and is safe.

‘We’ve had to waste RNLI and Coastguard volunteers’ time to ensure that abandoned inflatables did not have anyone at risk associated with them.

‘We can’t stress enough that these inflatables are not suitable for use in the sea.

‘Tide conditions, the wind, any changes in the weather can just take them out beyond safe depths.

‘Please, don’t use them, don’t take them to the seaside. Inflatables really should only be used in swimming pools, not at the coast where they can quickly go from being fun to being potentially deadly.’

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