Calls have been made for swimmers not to discard clothing along the coastline after a massive search operation was launched along the north coast when a pair of men’s pants were discovered at a beach.
A search operation – involving Coleraine and Ballycastle rescue teams, Portrush RNLI lifeboat, RNLI lifeguards, the Irish Coastguard rescue helicopter 118 from Sligo and shipping in the area – was initiated after Coastguard received a report before 8pm on Saturday that “some clothes had been left on the beach between Castlerock and Downhill on the north coast”.
Ryan Gray, senior maritime operations officer, said the report had been made by tourists who “had seen some people in the area and then saw them in the water swimming” but “a short time later couldn’t see them in the water any more”.
“They went round and the clothing was still sitting there so they raised the alarm,” he added. “We then tasked an extensive search from Magilligan Point to Portstewart including the caves.”
Mr Gray said “nothing was found” and “no missing people were reported”. The search operation was stood down at 9.40pm.
“It was classed that possibly someone had gone swimming and left clothing behind that they didn’t want to take home.”
He said over the summer months they get incidents of this nature “a fair amount”.
“Obviously we go and search to try to make sure there is no one missing,” he added. “But, with regards to the north coast incident, we are fairly confident at this time that in this case someone has left clothes behind.
“I would like to ask people not to leave clothes lying near the coastline. If they want to discard them can they put them in the bin.
“But on the same note, if people spot clothing on the beach and there is no one in the water they should ring 999 and tell us.”
When asked how much the operation cost, Mr Gray said: “I don’t know how much it cost, I know it would have cost a fair amount but we do not talk about cost. The only time we may mention cost is if it is a definite hoax and I don’t think this was a hoax at all.”