Surfing tragedy claims three lives


Published: Monday 27th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Two men and one woman have died in a surfing tragedy at a coastal beauty spot.

Four children and three adults got into difficulty off Mawgan Porth Beach, Newquay, in Cornwall, emergency services said.

The adults were taken unconscious from the sea and taken to Treliske for treatment in a serious condition but were later pronounced dead in hospital.

Police said the woman and one of the men who died were both in their 40s and from Cornwall.

The second man was in his 50s and was from outside the police force’s area. A spokesman said his family has been contacted.

The victims have not yet been formally identified and police are still contacting next of kin.

Inspector Dave Meredith, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said the four survivors had “managed to get out of the sea”.

A spokeswoman for the South Western Ambulance Service said: “Four patients were what we describe as walking wounded. They were taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.”

She said e mergency services were called to the beach around 1.30pm yesterday after receiving several 999 calls saying seven people had been caught in a “rip tide”.

Cornwall air ambulance, North Devon air ambulance, a search and rescue helicopter, a double crewed ambulance, a rapid response vehicle, police and Coastguard went to the scene.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency: “The group who got into difficulty consisted of seven people with boards in the water, four children and three adults.

“The four children were all located safe and well on shore but the three adults were recovered from the water.

“Two of those recovered from the water were given CPR at the scene. The three casualties were transferred to hospital by the rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose and both the Devon and Cornwall air ambulances.”

Newquay RNLI told ITV News that the beach is “dangerous”.

Gareth Horner, lifeboat operations manager, said: “Conditions (there) are not really very good for surfing and bodyboarding.

“Mawgan Porth is a dangerous beach. We don’t know the exact circumstances or the ability of the people that were rescued today.

“My understanding is that they were in two groups and that one of the casualties actually entered the sea to assist other people who were in trouble.”

Ian Guy, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s National Maritime Operations Centre, told the BBC: “The surf there was quite high I’m told, in excess of 6ft.”

He said rip currents were “to be expected around Cornwall, especially at this time of year”.

A rip current, sometimes wrongly referred to as a rip tide, is a strong, localised and narrow current of water.

It moves directly away from the shore and cuts through the lines of breaking waves.

People who do not have the necessary water skills can be placed at risk in a rip current if they panic or exhaust themselves swimming directly against the flow.

It is not known at this stage whether the group were experienced surfers or not.

Peter Abell, 30, owner of the Kingsurf surf school at Mawgan Porth – which was not involved in the incident – was on his lunch break when the incident took place, and described the tragedy as “really, really unlucky”.

He said parts of the beach are always safe and said beaches are always changing, adding: “You can never predict this.”

Asked about surfing conditions today, he said it was “not as bad as it can be”, but said there were some currents that were “slightly more dangerous than usual”.

He added: “The waves were bigger, they were quite big. And it wasn’t the safest of days to be in the sea. But it wasn’t particularly dangerous. There were lots of safe places to be and they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mr Abell praised the emergency services for their response, describing them as “incredible”.

On the Visit Cornwall website, an entry for Mawgan Porth beach says: “A large west-facing beach with plenty of sand at high tide and popular with families. Backed by the steep headland cliffs, Mawgan Porth offers a sheltered stretch of beach halfway between Newquay and Padstow.”

A tourist website for Mawgan Porth describes it as “the perfect location for a peaceful, relaxing and wonderfully memorable holiday”.

Published: Monday 27th October 2014 by The News Editor

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