Burnham-On-Sea Police, RNLI lifeboat crews and Coastguards were called out during the early hours of Sunday morning (July 1st) after several distress flares had been launched into the night sky.
Crews were called out at 1.07am after several people contacted the Coastguard and Police, having seen the distress flares over Burnham-On-Sea Sailing Club.
Police said a number of boats had been broken into at the Sailing Club pontoons over the past week, with several items being stolen, including marine pyrotechnic distress flares.
Police initially searched Apex Park to see if the culprits could be found, while Coastguards searched around the Yacht Club. Burnham’s RNLI Lifeboats were also launched to help search the river estuaries, although the falling tide meant access was limited.
“Six of the Coastguard team lined the seawall looking across the bay while the Lifeboats launched an illumination parachute flare,” said a Coastguard spokesman.
“This meant a large area was lit up and we could spot anyone in distress. The flare went up and we scoured the bay, but nothing was found.”
Foot searches along the seafront to the sailing club were extended along the River Brue footpath towards Highbridge, alongside by a team in the Coastguard truck.
Police established that the distance between the flare that the Lifeboats had let off and the one that had been spotted earlier was very different, so it was more likely that the distress flares had been let off inland.
The Coastguard added: “Once our truck arrived at the boatyard, two team members were sent on foot along the paths and the truck continued onwards to the road.”
“As they neared the main road, a handheld smoke flare was spotted laying in the path, clearly having been used and thrown on the floor, creating scorch marks.”
“Once we had passed this info onto Milford Haven Ops room they were happy that there was no boats or persons in difficulty.”
“It was a case of whoever broke into the boats and stole the flares acting even more irresponsibly by then firing them.”
“Not only had they broken into people’s boats causing damage, they have then stolen their property, and on top of that caused a call-out that involved two Police, six Coastguards, two lifeboat crews and associated shore crew members.”
It was noted that SOLAS Regulation V/35 prohibits the mis-use of any distress signals which are deemed to be critical to safety at sea. By misusing them, lives could be put at risk.