Bournemouth beach: Two children dead after ‘major incident’

Bournemouth pier

A man has been arrested after a 12-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy died after being pulled from the water on Bournemouth beach yesterday (31 May 2023).

Eight other children had to be rescued after getting into difficulties off the beach in Dorset, which was filled with half-term holidaymakers and locals.

Dorset Police says it is still ‘investigating the circumstances that caused a number of swimmers to get into difficulty’ and confirmed a man in his 40s, who was ‘on the water’ at the time of the incident, has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

Early investigation indicates that there was ‘no physical contact between a vessel and any swimmers at the time of the incident,’ the Dorset Police said in a statement released on Thursday morning (1 June 2023).

Police have confirmed the two casualties were already in the water when the incident occurred, contradicting some earlier media reports speculating they had been jumping off the pier and pulled out by a riptide.

The beach was cleared to allow two air ambulances to land on the beach and bring the two critically injured schoolchildren to hospital, where they both died. Police are yet to release the identities of the two victims.

Some beachgoers are said to have ignored warnings to keep back in order to film rescuers administering CPR.

Speaking to the Mirror, Ritta Saruchera said her daughter and her friend were in the sea at the time when they saw what happened.

“They were coming back out of the water when they saw a teenage boy struggling. There was another one floating in the water,” says Saruchera.

“We went to get help from the lifeguard and inform them of what was happening. There were three young men out there and they have been searching for a fourth.”

The Coastguard has since confirmed it is ‘satisfied’ after a search that noone else remains missing in the water.

Nicola Holton, 43, and Stuart Clark, 42, were on the beach with their two children when the tragedy unfolded.

They told the Mirror that the scene was like something from “a horror film”.

“As we walked to the east side of the pier, there was at least one but probably a few jet skiers going across the right side of the pier,” says Clark. “We didn’t take too much notice of them at the time.

“There were announcements throughout the afternoon telling people not to climb on the pier. After 2pm it seemed like people weren’t going near it.

“The next announcement we got was at 4pm about a dangerous riptide in the water, and it [was] soon after that we saw a couple of swimmers in trouble out to sea.

“It got really chaotic when they brought a young man back to shore on a lifeguard jet ski. It was obvious he wasn’t alive. That’s when people started gathering around and the lifeguards were trying to clear the beach at the same time as helping the others in the water.

“We saw the young girl get brought out too, and there were no obvious injuries on her either. I just wanted to get my family off the beach with our belongings.”

Holton adds: “It was like a scene from a horror film. After an afternoon of lovely weather and the odd announcement to tell kids to stop climbing on the pier it looked like it had all settled down.

“When we first spotted the swimmers in distress, they were far out to the east side of the pier.

“A lifeguard ran into the water with a surfboard and it seemed to take ages for him to get to them. There was an announcement to get out of the water, and then the lifeguards started bringing people back to shore.

“A few were taken to the lifeguard tent, and then we saw the young man and girl brought out. We were packing up our things to leave as quickly as we could. It was just awful.

“There were loads of idiots ignoring lifeguard requests to get out of the water and clear the beach. People were running towards those having CPR filming on their phones.”

Eeman Qamar, from Southampton, was on the beach with her mother and three-month-old baby at the time.

Speaking to the BBC, Qamar reports that just after 4pm, lifeguards began to tell people to clear the beach, saying there had been a major incident.

“After about 20 minutes, the first air ambulance arrived and landed right in the middle of the beach,” she says.

“The lifeguards started getting on jet skis and boats, searching the sea and about 20 minutes later the second air ambulance arrived and it took another hour-and-a-half for them to finish the whole search and rescue operation.”

Another eyewitness, Trevor Pinto, had been walking along the pier with his 16-year-old son and told he BBC he had seen the incident happening “very close” by.

He said they watched as lifeguards attempted to resuscitate two people, adding: “It took me a while to realise, oh my god, someone had lost their life”.

Other eyewitnesses report that the horror of the incident was not immediately clear, despite the helicopter, ambulance and Coastguard activity, and only realised the scale of the tragedy once a police statement was issued.

In a statement, Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns expressed his condolences to the family, and said the incident was a “salutary lesson that our beaches and ocean can give much pleasure, but danger is ever present”.

Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Corrigan, of Dorset Police, says: “Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the young people who tragically died, and we are doing all we can to support their families.

“I understand the beach was very busy at the time of the incident, and I would ask anyone with information that may assist our enquiries to please come forward.

“We are at the early stages of our investigation and would ask people not to speculate about the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

This morning, mourners have gathered on the beach to place flowers as Bournemouth, a popular tourist town filled with people on half-term holidays, awakens to news of the tragedy.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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