AN early-morning swim in the sea by three drunken revellers sparked a full-scale rescue operation on Wednesday after one told police his pals were missing.
The heavily intoxicated man said the pair, also the worse for drink, had been washed out to sea at 6.30am after going swimming at Tynemouth Longsands.
The man was taken to hospital for a check-up while police officers, Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, three RNLI lifeboats and an ambulance team carried out an extensive but fruitless search.
The two men were later found safe while waiting to board a bus to Newcastle, both still soaking wet.
Tynemouth RNLI spokesman Adrian Don said: “The RNLI lifeboats launched in fog and visibility was down to 40 yards, although as the search progressed the fog quickly lifted.
“Although the search might appear to have been a waste of time any reports of people in danger at sea are taken very seriously.
“An extensive, systematic search was initiated of the areas where any casualties may have been carried by the tide and wind which continued right up until the point where the rescuers and coastguard were absolutely satisfied there was no one in any danger.”
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “At 6.58am today a man called police to say that he and several friends had been drinking in Tynemouth and that he had now lost track of them.
“Officers made inquiries and two men were located as they waited to board a bus.
“Police inquiries have now concluded.”