Hoax sea rescue callout 'could have put lives at risk'
The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) has said lives could have been put at risk by a hoax callout in Newcastle, County Down on Friday.
Two lifeboats were launched in stormy weather at 09:00 GMT after reports that a man had got into difficulty after going into the sea to rescue his dog.
The search was stood down at 10:30 GMT when the coastguard declared it a hoax.
RNLI captain Joseph McClelland said the hoax caller "could have put people's lives at risk".
Mr McClelland, from Newcastle RNLI, said: "There was a heavy breaking surf in the area with a strong south-westerly wind blowing force seven and two-metre swells.
"The lifeboats were on scene within minutes and the volunteer lifeboat crew searched in very challenging weather.
"The call for help was believed by the coastguard to have been a hoax and while we are relieved that no one is hurt we are disappointed that anyone would call out the emergency services on a day like today, knowing it to be a hoax.
"They could have put people's lives at risk and diverted necessary search and rescue assets away from other work."
The search centred on an area about one mile north-east of Newcastle lifeboat station.
Both Newcastle's inshore and all-weather lifeboats were launched, and the search also involved helicopters from the police and the Irish Coast Guard, and members of the Kilkeel and Newcastle shore-based coastguard teams.