An operation to rescue schoolchildren from the River Dee was hampered because a key piece of safety equipment had been vandalised, it was revealed today.
The Coastguard were called to the scene after a group from the Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association (ASRA) got into trouble near Victoria Bridge.
The team was attempting to turn the boat around when it capsized, sending the five female occupants into the river.
Luckily, the incident was spotted by a ship moored nearby, with those aboard alerting the Coastguard.
The Aberdeen inshore lifeboat, along with a team from Aberdeen Coastguard and a rescue helicopter that was training in the area, were all sent to the scene.
Upon their arrival, the girls had “self-rescued”, by climbing back on to the overturned boat.
They were taken on board the pilot cutter just as the inshore lifeboat launched.
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Ian Duncan, a coach for the ASRA, said: “The girls are to be commended for remembering their safety drills, as sometimes you wonder if these lessons are really being taken on board, but it’s obvious now that they are.
“The only thing that didn’t go well was that there was no throw line available. When we went to throw one from the South Esplanade West side before they entered the harbour we found it had been cut, so we couldn’t throw it.
“All of the girls are fine. They obviously had a wee bit of a fright but they are already talking about how excited they were to get back on the water again.”
Cal Reed was at the helm of the Aberdeen inshore lifeboat during the operation at around 3pm on Saturday. He said: “The girls did well to remain calm and remember their safety drills – staying with their boat, using it for buoyancy and to keep them out of the water.”
Ambulance crews were also called although none of them were injured and the rescue helicopter had a doctor on board.
Following the rescue, emergency crews were able to recover the boat before returning it to Aberdeen Rowing Club.
Aberdeen’s Harbour Master, Captain Jeff Gaskin, has congratulated the Port’s Pilot Boat Crew and Duty Pilot, who were first on the scene and rescued five rowers from their capsized vessel on Saturday afternoon in the River Dee.
Captain Gaskin said: “I am delighted that the training and professionalism of the staff, who effected the rescue on Saturday, is there for all to see.
“The crew were able to bring onto the pilot boat all of the capsized rowers, who had been sitting on their upturned boat, after it capsized at Victoria Bridge.
“My thanks to the supply vessels berthed in the vicinity who alerted our Vessel Traffic Sevices to the incident, and allowed us to effect a rapid and safe rescue.
“Those rescued were landed at the Harbour’s Dock Gate Pontoon, where the emergency services were in attendance. Well done to all the Harbour staff involved”.