A family visiting Porthleven, in Cornwall, bought a £7 lilo and let their child use it as a float at the beach.
But they quickly realised how dangerous that can be as a stiff breeze sent kid and lilo floating out to sea.
An RNLI helicopter was scrambled to rescue the young girl and prevent a major tragedy.
Local RNLI branch president Mike Carter explained: “A family visiting Porthleven purchased a lilo from a local shop and went to the beach.
“There was an off-shore wind and the parents immediately experienced their child waving goodbye as the lilo went further and further out.
“The coastguard scrambled the SAR [search and rescue] helicopter which was soon on scene.
“The diver jumped from the the helicopter and saved the child. He instantly put a knife through the lilo to save any further drifting and they were both winched to safety.”
That might have seemed like a happy ending to the story, but the lifeboatmen were flabbergasted when, a week later, they received a bill for the price of the lilo that the rescue diver had punctured as he saved the young girl’s life.
“Keep your floating friends for the pool. They may pose well for Insta, but they can also pose a danger when up against strong currents and wind”
Mike Carter, RNLI
Mike says that the commanding officer of the Porthleven RNLI branch couldn’t resist sending an invoice of his own.
He said: “Two weeks later the commanding officer [CO] of 771 received a request to pay an invoice for £7 the cost of the lilo.
“The CO wrote replying: ‘I will be happy to pay your invoice on receipt of payment for the helicopter rescue £7,000.’ No response was received.”
Mike said inflatables in the sea pose a constant threat, and only last week the Maritime and Coastguard Agency posted a similar warning.
They said: “Inflatable unicorns, watermelons, dinosaurs, you name it, we’ve seen it.
“Keep your floating friends for the pool. They may pose well for Insta, but they can also pose a danger when up against strong currents and wind, sweeping you out to sea.
“Remember, supervise kids and call #999Coastguard if you spot an inflatable drifting at sea or yours gets blown away.”