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Sunday Mail

Sunday 29 July 2007

Where’s Whaley

Kids’ toy sparks air-sea rescue bid

A MASSIVE air and sea hunt was launched…to save a six-foot inflatable killer whale.

The £10,000 rescue operation swung into action after a frenzied 999 call reported three children drifting out to sea at Gairloch.

A £7000-an-hour chopper was scrambled and an RNLI lifeboat launched.

Coastguards rushed to the seashore and tourists were caught up in the mercy dash when two cruise boats answered the SOS.

But the youngsters they were hunting were playing happily on the beach.

Nick Davies, 39, who diverted his cruise boat Orca 1, found the blow-up whale as the Stornoway helicopter buzzed overhead.

He said: “I used up almost all my fuel and had to refund passengers £17.50 each for the hour-long trip to see dolphins and real whales…not a bloody plastic one.”

Yesterday the children’s father, violin-maker Peter Goodfellow, said they never meant to cause alarm. Australian born Peter, 44, of Miltonduff, Moray, said: “We never thought of phoning the coastguard to say we had lost our toy.”

Gairloch coastguard Colin Pickering said the 999 call came from a woman who had been watching three children playing in a dinghy.

When she glanced back she thought she could see the youngsters waving for help from their dinghy as it was blown to sea.

Pickering said: “After Nick retrieved the plastic toy, I went to the beach and found the family playing badminton.

“I asked if they had lost an inflatable toy whale. They were a bit embarrassed.”

A coastguard insider said: “This shambles must have cost about £10,000.”

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