FIREFIGHTERS have warned of the dangers of waterways after rescuing three young boys from a dinghy on a Hampshire river.

The youngsters, believed to be aged 11, 12, and 13, were travelling along the River Itchen when they got into trouble close to Cobden Bridge, Southampton.

Firefighters were poised to launch a major water operation as colleagues tried to reach the trio, who were drifting downstream along the channel, with sinking mud on both sides.

But Solent Coastguard called off the rescue after crews from St Mary’s fire station pulled them to safety.

The boys, who had ventured onto the water without oars, eventually managed to grab hold of a boat close to the railway bridge further downstream before crews threw in ropes and hauled them in. They were wrapped in thermal blankets before being handed to ambulance crews to treat minor cuts to their hands.

It is believed the youngsters, from Millbrook, Southampton, had wandered down to the river while their parents were at a barbecue nearby.

After the rescue, at 7.30pm on Sunday night, firefighter Neil Perry said: “We warn people to be aware of dangers on the river and make sure they wear life jackets when going out on the water.”