A child that drifted out to sea on an inflatable lilo was pulled from the water by a rescue helicopter - only for the family to send rescuers a bill.

Mike Carter, president of the Porthleven branch of the RNLI, shared the story this week as a warning over the dangers of using inflatables in open water, saying they should only ever be used in swimming pools.

He said he had been told the story by a former member of 771 search and rescue squadron on Sunday, which is believed to have taken place when the rescue helicopters were still based out of RNAS Culdrose in Helston.

Mr Carter said: "A family visiting Porthleven purchased a lilo from a local shop and went to the beach.

"There was an off-shore wind and the parents immediately experienced their child waving goodbye as the lilo went further and further out.

"The coastguard scrambled the SAR helicopter which was soon on scene.

"The diver jumped from the the helicopter and saved the child. He instantly put a knife through the lilo to save any further drifting and they were both winched to safety.

"Two weeks later the commanding officer of 771 received a request to pay an invoice for £7 the cost of the lilo.

"The CO wrote replying, 'I will be happy to pay your invoice on receipt of payment for the helicopter rescue £7,000.' No response was received."

Mr Carter told the Packet that while the story he was told on Sunday may have been from the past, it was a circumstance that kept reoccurring and people needed to stop using inflatables at sea.

Only last week the Maritime and Coastguard Agency posted a similar warning, saying: "Inflatable unicorns, watermelons, dinosaurs, you name it, we’ve seen it.

""Keep your floating friends for the pool. They may pose well for Insta, but they can also pose a danger when up against strong currents and wind, sweeping you out to sea.

"Remember, supervise kids and call #999Coastguard if you spot an inflatable drifting at sea or yours gets blown away."