Dolphin returned to sea off Lancashire coast 'like Free Willy'
A dolphin which was washed up on a beach has been rescued and stretchered back to the sea "like Free Willy", a coastguard has said.
John Bradbury said the "quite frisky" mammal was spotted lying on the sand at Knott End, near Fleetwood in Lancashire, at about 10:00 GMT.
After covering it with wet blankets, coastguards used a miniature stretcher to get it back into the water, he said.
He said that everybody involved in the rescue was "happy it went off".
Mr Bradbury said once the dolphin was back in the water, it "kept going to the shore and out again" for about an hour, "getting bolder and bolder", before it "just swam off to sea".
Referring to the 1993 film in which an orca is released into the sea, he said once it "decided it was going, we gave it the option [and] it seemed to be like Free Willy".
A spokeswoman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, who were involved in the rescue, said it was likely to have been a young striped dolphin.
She said there was "usually a reason for them coming ashore" and it was possible it was ill, but that "in this area, the tide does go out quite quickly and it's possible it was just been caught out".
She added that members of the public should "never handle stricken dolphins because they can carry disease".