LIVES were put at risk by thieves who stole the fuel tanks from a rescue boat during an overnight crime spree on the River Ouse.

On Saturday night a Sea Cadets boat was stolen and used by the thieves to reach the York Rescue Boat at Queen’s Staith which was then stripped of its fuel tanks.

On the same night, vessels belonging to City Cruises York were also targeted, with alcohol and other items stolen from the pleasure cruises.

North Yorkshire Police are liaising with other river users to see if any further boat break-ins took place.

Rachel Lacy of the York Rescue Boat team said: “This put our lifeboat out of action for several hours, potentially risking lives if the team were required at an incident.”

She said the craft was clearly identifiable as a rescue boat, so the thieves must have known what they were targeting.

She added: “It’s disgusting that someone would jeopardise people’s lives in this way.”

Thankfully the fuel tanks were recovered after the Sea Cadets boat was discovered abandoned near Clifton Bridge with the tanks on board.

The cadets’ boat was retrieved by police and a BID ranger and rowed back to the organisation’s HQ.

Commenting on the fuel tank theft on Twitter, North Yorkshire Police said: “The actions of those involved have potentially put the lives of others at risk as the boat was unable to respond to incidents on the river.”

There was also an angry reaction to the news on social media, with people taking to facebook to brand the crime “absolutely disgusting” and the criminals “mindless idiots”.

The theft also prompted people to donate funds to the Rescue Boat, which is staffed by volunteers.

The team was set up as a charity in 2014 and is dedicated to providing a physical and proactive commitment to furthering the safety of the rivers in and around York.

They carry out weekend foot and river patrols in York, and on special event requests, combined with a program of education and awareness in schools, colleges and universities.