Red distress smoke-flares which had been deliberately set-off on the shore at Lavernock Point triggered a two-boat call-out for Penarth lifeboat crews last night.
The smoke flares – the international signal for a vessel in distress in daylight – were spotted at 17:30 and immediately HM Coastguard at Milford Haven tasked both Penarth lifeboats to launch and attend the scene.
Meanwhile a Penarth Coastguard team headed to the scene to undertake a shore search on foot along the beach.
The coastguard officers found a number of recently-fired smoke flares and spotted “a number of people” who left the scene before officers could speak to them.
Penarth Coastguard said the incident smoke flares could have been fired because the people on the beach may have thought they had been cut off by the tide – but as they all disappeared as soon as the coastguard team and the lifeboats arrived – and didn’t need rescuing – it’s thought the firing of the grenades could have been a malicious false alarm.
The Penarth Lifeboat Operations Manager Jason Dunlop said today “RNLI volunteer crew members will respond to any request to help those in trouble at sea. However, during situations like this when the coastguard requests a lifeboat to launch, it uses volunteers’ time, which they selflessly give to help those in trouble. It costs the charity valuable funds, which could be better used elsewhere. A false call can take lifesaving resources away from a real emergency.”
Mr Dunlop said ‘We would urge people to use flares for the purpose they were intended – to signal distress. Today’s incident resulted in two lifeboats being launched, involving 15 RNLI volunteers. Our resources were committed for approximately two hours which in turn could have limited our ability to respond to further emergency calls.’
The incident was the third call-out in three days for the Penarth lifeboat crews.