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Rescue bills begin to bite! 

Reckless behaviour will cost you dear.

The new rule which allows the Canary government to charge for rescues caused by “reckless actions” is beginning to bite.

Anyone who gets into trouble in a situation which could have been avoided may find a sting in the tail as demonstrated by a 1,320 euro fine for a German tourist.

The 23-year-old man thought it would be funny to pull a prank on his friends and jumped overboard from a cruise ship docked in La Palma.

He launched himself into the ocean from the seventh floor and though he was not hurt, witnesses were alarmed and called in the emergency services. The subsequent search involved the police, medics, ambulance, maritime rescue, helicopter, Port Authority and other workers.

The man eventually turned up safe and well on his own accord but he isn’t laughing about the February escapade after having to pay the rescue bill. On top of this, he had to pay his own air fare home of around 300 euros because the ship’s captain refused point blank to take him back on board.

Over the last few days in the Canary Islands, there have been a number of new incidents, including the rescue of two men whose boat overturned off the coast of La Gomera. They were not hurt. In Adeje, a 21-year-old French woman had to be hoisted to safety by the emergency helicopter when she got lost in the Roque del Conde area.

Marine rescue also had to help the occupants of a small yacht which was seen drifting off the coast of Las Caletillas in Candelaria after their engine failed and virtually every day, hikers and walkers have been rescued. There are also frequent emergencies involving wind-surfers and paragliders and of people falling into the sea, often when they have strayed into areas which are cordonned off.

Not all of these rescues will be subject to charges but those deemed “avoidable” through reckless behaviour or lack of proper equipment or preparations will lead to a bill.

So far, it’s estimated there have been 24 cases which fit into this category, including an incident where a horse-rider fell 20 metres down a rocky ravine in Gran Canaria. Cost: 4,172 euros!

The rules identify a wide range of activities and sports which could be deemed risky such as climbing, quad biking, bungee jumping, canyoning, microlight flights, paragliding, surfing, water ski-ing and caving amongst others.

The government would look at the circumstances before deciding whether to charge or not. Factors will include ignoring warning signs or bans or not having the right equipment. Fines vary depending on the extent of the rescue and the number of people in the group but could be as much as 12,000 euros for bigger parties.

Clubs, federations and schools are invariably insured so the message is to check and to do the same if possible if you are an individual.

However, one unexpected spin-off from this is concern that some people who get into trouble might put off calling the emergency services for fear of being presented with a big bill afterwards.

It has been reported that the family of one open water swimmer who went missing for five hours in Tenerife didn’t raise the alert for this very reason. They were just about to do so in final desperation when he turned up safe and well.