BRAVE rescuers were challenged over response times as they arrived to try to help people drifting out to sea in an inflatable dinghy.

The West Mersea Coastguard Rescue Team, the West Mersea RNLI and the Essex Police Marine Unit were call called just after 6pm on Thursday to the coast near Coopers Beach Holiday Park.

A group of five people were struggling to bring their inflatable back to shore.

They were eventually helped by a passerby but the coastguard team were confronted by someone on the beach - who had not been in the dinghy - and reprimanded about the response time.

Strong advice was issued to the group who were told that inflatables without motors or oars should only be used in swimming pools - and never in the sea where there are unpredictable currents and tides.

With temperatures set to be warm for the final days of the summer holidays, both the RNLI and the coastguard have issued safety warnings in a bid to keep people of all ages out of danger at the seaside.

Bev Allen, maritime operations controller for HM Coastguard, said: “This summer, in particular we’ve had lots of cases of children blown out to sea on inflatables and our clear message is keep inflatables for fun in the pool as they can be a big risk to life on the beach.”

RNLI lifeguard supervisor Arun Gray said: “Sea conditions can vary hugely throughout the day so don’t overestimate your own abilities.

“The tides often come in and out quickly and rip currents can develop rapidly.

“RNLI lifeguards are there to offer advice so if you are unsure about anything, make sure you ask a lifeguard.

“They will be able to provide information on tide times and guide you to the safest area to swim which will be between the red and yellow flags.

‘If you ever fall into the water unexpectedly or begin to struggle, our advice is to float to live.

“The natural reaction is to thrash and attempt to swim but this can increase the chances of you breathing in water.

“Your safest option is to float on your back to keep your airway clear and get your breathing under control. This will allow you to call for help of plan your next move to safety.”