A LITTLE boy stuck in mud faced a race against time to be saved as the Morecambe Bay tide rapidly approached.

Trapped up to his knees and with the tide just minutes away, the boy was pulled free by his mother as coastguard emergency teams raced to the scene off the coast of Arnside.

The shocking incident – coming just before the impending busy tourist season – has prompted The Westmorland Gazette to relaunch its Safety on the Sands campaign. Launched in 2013, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers that the shifting sands of Morecambe Bay can pose.

It urges people to check tide timetables, not to ignore the high tide warning siren and to call the coastguard if they see someone they believe to be in danger.

Bruce Chattaway, station officer for Ulverston Inshore Rescue, said although there had been a decrease in the number of alarm calls, danger still remained.

“It’s very important that we raise awareness,” he said. He told the Gazette there were 37 callouts in the Bay area for the team last year, adding: “People do not realise how quick the tide is. You can’t stop them going out but you can do everything possible to make them aware of the tide times. If there’s no tide it’s not too bad but if there’s a 10 metre tide it can be quite serious.”

Mr Chattaway said the coastal warning signs funded by Cumbria County Council had been beneficial, as well as talks and lectures the group undertook at schools and clubs. However, although local knowledge was improving, there was still a big risk for those who did not know the area, including tourists.

“There’s always a danger there because you have people staying at campsites and they are from all over the place,” he said.

“People see a nice sunny day and think ‘lets have a walk on the beach’ when it’s low water. They walk through the gutter but if there are quite big tides it gets filled up within minutes and there’s nowhere to go.”

The fast-rising incoming tides, unpredictable quicksands and shifting channels, make the sands some of the most dangerous in the UK.

Members from Furness and Arnside Coastguard teams were carrying out a rescue water craft course at Arnside station just before the incident on Saturday. “Some members of the public were running towards us shouting and waving their arms and screaming,” said Adam Bradbury, senior coastal operations officer for Cumbria and Morecambe Bay.

“We called for back up from Knott-End and Morecambe and the fire service as well as the coastguard helicopter. The window of opportunity was quite small as the tide was racing in.”

The team arrived at the scene just a few minutes after it was alerted but the mother of the child had already rescued her son, whom Mr Bradbury believes was no more than 200 feet from the sea wall.

“It was very lucky for them and I think it was quite a worrying situation for us to deal with,” said Mr Bradbury. “The tide comes in sort of slowly at first and then it comes in faster than a horse can gallop – and it was at the point that we got that call.”

Mr Bradbury agreed that as the weather got warmer he ‘naturally’ expected the team to see more incidents as the beaches got busier. He could think of ‘about 10 occasions’ over the last 12 months when they had been called out to a similar kind of incident.

He said if you do get stuck then do not panic, do not struggle, spread your weight and then start to pull your limbs out. He would not advise the public going out to help if they saw someone else in trouble.

“We do tell people the first thing to do is call help and not to get themselves stuck,” he said. “My big message to the public is always to call 999 straight away.”