The mum of a boy who was blown out to sea with a friend in an inflatable dinghy has told of the chaotic moment she heard her son scream: "Am I going to die?”

Laura Gallagher, from East Lothian, swan for a mile to try and save her son during a day out with her family and friends at Thortonlock Beach.

The 31-year-old mum now wants to warn others of the dangers, after living through the terrifying ordeal, which she said “all happened in an instant”.

Laura had been looking forward to the beach day on Saturday, July 17, with her husband Kern, 34, their sons Nathan, seven, Jamie, four, and their friends Sarah and Robert Keenan, who brought their son Findlay, also seven.

Laura swiftly leapt into the water after the boys, hoping to swim fast enough to reach them and bring them into the shore (

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Edinburgh Live WS)

The boys had been enjoying playing in the sea on a rubber dingy which had the three young lads all sitting in it, she said.

But when four-year-old Jamie got off, it affected the weight of the light craft and it suddenly began drifting into deep waters with Nathan and Findlay still onboard.

Laura recalled the petrifying ordeal and told how she could hear the boys screaming that "they were going to die" as the vessel took off.

The pharmacy manager from Dunbar told the RNLI the family had set up a base at the beach before the mums headed down to the water with the children.

Despite it being a windy day, the sea was fairly calm, she said, which was why she hadn’t been holding onto the dinghy the whole time.

“All three children were in the boat at first. They were playing a metre away from Sarah and me,” Laura said.

Laura Gallagher with her sons Nathan (left) and Jamie at Thorntonloch beach, where a fun family picnic suddenly turned into a day of drama (

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“Then Nathan got out and maybe it was the change in weight that lifted it up – but the boat shot off.

"One moment they were right by my side and the next they were being blown away. It all happened in an instant."

The quick-thinking mum was thankfully already wearing a swimming costume, so decided to jump into the water to save the young boys, swimming frantically to bring them back to shore.

Despite desperately trying to catch up to the boat, she said it kept moving away from her.

“I looked round and realised how far we were from shore," she said.

"Sarah and my husband had started swimming too but stopped as they weren’t strong swimmers."

Seeing the boys in tears, calling out to her asking whether they were going to die, prompted her to carry on swimming, she said.

Thankfully a guard vessel for a "walking" barge doing geotechnical surveys for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm was in the area.

Laura with her boys on Thorntonloch beach, with the guard vessel that rescued them in the distance (

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The crew saw what was happening and came to their aid, with two men on board managing to float alongside the dinghy and haul both boys out.

Laura said she had a “huge sigh of relief” before the boat came for her too.

“It was a struggle to get me on board,” she said.

“My legs were jelly and I was coughing. I don’t think I’d swallowed water but it had been splashing into my mouth.”

Laura hopes that by sharing the experience she can make others think twice about bringing similar inflatables to the beach.

The dinghy, which the family bought on holiday in Portugal, has gone in the bin, she said.

Laura said the happy ending to her story was all thanks to the crew of the vessel that rescued the boys, and the RNLI lifeboat crew who helped them get ashore, as well as the beachgoers who called the coastguard.

Dunbar Lifeboat coxswain Gary Fairbairn said: “We want people to have fun at the beach but Laura’s story shows just how quickly things can get very dangerous. Thankfully the guard vessel was close by to help.

“Inflatable dinghies look fun but they are not suitable for our beaches where strong offshore winds can pick up at any moment.”