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Beach-goer was ‘unnerved’ by sea conditions on day Bexley trio drowned at Camber Sands

PUBLISHED: 11:47 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:47 27 June 2017

Police officers on Camber Sands near Rye, East Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Police officers on Camber Sands near Rye, East Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

An inquest into the deaths last year was told there were “lots of pockets of shallow and deep holes”

A beach-goer has told how he felt “unnerved” by the sea conditions on the day five young friends, including three from Bexley, drowned during a visit to the south coast.

Stephen Deacon said the sea appeared calm on the surface at Camber Sands, near Rye in neighbouring East Sussex, but below the water, the strong current pushed him in and out.

He told an inquest: “It made me feel uncomfortable. It was pushing me in and out. It was like I couldn’t control my own body. The top seemed calm but below it was different.”

Mr Deacon was in the water with three children and their dinghy on an extremely busy day at Camber Sands, which can attract up to 30,000 day-trippers during peak season.

On the strong current, he added: “It unnerved me. I just headed back towards the beach as I had three children with me. I wouldn’t have gone to the beach if I knew it was like that.”

At the inquest in Hastings, Mr Deacon said there were “lots of pockets of shallow and deep holes” and added: “You couldn’t tell when these pockets would appear.”

Mr Deacon said there were no warning notices about the nature of the sands, and no flag was flying on the day. The only warning he saw was about the possibility of jellyfish, he said.

Later that afternoon, on August 24 last year, Mr Deacon said he saw five Asian men chest-deep in the water apparently playing volleyball before later seeing a Coastguard helicopter.

The inquest has heard that all five men who drowned were fit, healthy and competent swimmers, with some having visited the beach at Camber before without incident.

The five victims were Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18, known as Ken, and his brother Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 22, known as Kobi, both of Normandy Way, Erith and their friends Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, of Elsa Road, Welling Nitharsan Ravi, 22, of Admaston Road, Plumstead, south-east London and Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23, of Chadwell Road, Grays, Essex.

About a month before the tragedy, two other people also lost their lives at Camber. Mohit Dupar, 36, from Hayes, west London, tried to reach Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, as he got into difficulty, but both men died. Their deaths are also being considered as part of the inquest into the five friends’ loss of life.

The deaths prompted calls for improved safety at Camber, resulting in Rother District Council agreeing in February to allocate £51,000 in its 2017/18 budget to bring in seasonal lifeguard cover from this summer.

But council officials have said the beach, which is three miles (4.8km) long and nearly half-a-mile (700m) wide at low tide, could never be completely risk-free.

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