Emergency services in the Canary Islands were left red-faced after confusing a tug boat for a crashed plane.

An alert was issued after staff said a plane had crashed into the sea about two miles off Gran Canaria.

The emergency services on the island issued a correction within minutes of the original alert.

However, by that time it had been reported by several news organisations across Europe, including BBC, Sky News and RTÉ.

"It's not an airplane, it's a big tug boat pulling a ship," a spokeswoman for the Canary Island emergency services said.

The islands' emergency services said on their Twitter account shortly after 3pm that air traffic controllers had confirmed a plane fell into the sea two nautical miles off Gran Canaria.

The false announcement spawned unfounded reports online that it was a Boeing 737 passenger jet.

Minutes later the emergency services corrected the report.
"It has finally been confirmed that it is not a plane, it is a tugboat pulling another vessel," a spokeswoman for the service said.

The Spanish airport authority AENA added in a tweet shortly afterwards: "False alarm: no plane has disappeared off the coast of Gran Canaria."