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Five friends who drowned at Camber Sands beach were all competent swimmers, say families as inquest opens

PUBLISHED: 16:52 26 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:52 26 June 2017

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

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

The inquest opened today

Undated collect photo (approx five years old) shows Nitharsan Ravi, who drowned in the sea at Camber Sands. Dominic Lipinski/PA WireUndated collect photo (approx five years old) shows Nitharsan Ravi, who drowned in the sea at Camber Sands. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Five young friends who drowned on a day trp to a popular beach with “hidden dangeres” were all competent swimmers, an inquest heard on Monday.

The men, three of whom came from the borough, and all were of Sri Lankan origin, ran into difficulties at Camber Sands beach, near Rye, East Sussex, on August 24 last year.

The inquest in Hastings heard some had been to Camber before without incident, and they were keen on sports, particularly cricket and football.

The 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, Plumstead and Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23, Grays, Essex.

Bexleyheath teen Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18. Picture: FacebookBexleyheath teen Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18. Picture: Facebook

Patrick Roche, lawyer for the five victims’ families, said Camber Sands is a beach with “hidden dangers”.

He said: “The families are very keen for lessons to be learned and they are very keen that no one else suffers the same appalling tragedy as they have suffered.”

Before the inquest got under way, Ajirthan Ravi, the brother of Mr Ravi, said he believed the men would not have died if lifeguards had been deployed at Camber.

Mr Ravi told reporters: “We are just hoping that it will be more secure and safer and more lifeguards, and that people are more protected.”

Consultant forensic pathologist Dr Brett Lockyer recorded a cause of death of immersion (drowning) for all five victims who died last August.

Arumukam Saththiyanathan, the father of Ken and Kobi, said in a statement to the inquest that they had “good swimming ability” and their Sri Lankan village was surrounded by three big rivers.

He said his sons swam in Sri Lanka almost every weekend, including at a Hindu temple, before they came to the UK when the brothers were aged 10 and 14 in July 2008.

Rother District Council agreed in February to allocate £51,000 in its 2017/18 budget to bring in seasonal lifeguard cover following demands for safety to be increased at Camber.

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 but they were determined to boost safety.

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