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Inquest into Camber Sands tragedy ‘should examine whether local authority was to blame’

PUBLISHED: 14:33 14 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:33 14 March 2017

An air ambulance involved a search for the five men who drowned on August 24. Credit: @Tashka4

An air ambulance involved a search for the five men who drowned on August 24. Credit: @Tashka4

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Two Erith brothers, a Welling man and two other men died at the beach last year

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

An inquest should examine whether a local authority was to blame for the deaths of five men, some of whom were from Bexley, at a beach last summer, a lawyer for their families has said.

Patrick Roche said the hearing should look at whether Rother District Council “could or should” have done more given the history of Camber Sands, near Rye, East Sussex.

At a pre-inquest review in Hastings, Mr Roche said one death occurred there in 2015, followed by two more in July last year, but no remedial measures came in until after the five further deaths a month later.

Mr Roche said: “This is very much a case where the court will have to examine whether the local authority is to blame for these deaths.”

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

The month before, Mohit Dupar, 36, from Hayes, west London, died after trying to reach Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, as he got into difficulty.

Last month, following growing calls to improve safety measures, Rother District Council agreed to allocate £51,000 in its 2017-18 budget to bring in seasonal lifeguard cover at Camber Sands.

Lifeguards will be stationed at the beach from the late May bank holiday until the end of the summer holidays in a bid to reassure the more than a million people who visit each year.

Council officials have said the beach, which is three miles long and up to 700 metres wide at low tide, can never be completely risk-free but they were determined to boost safety.

On the timing of the full inquest, East Sussex senior coroner Alan Craze said there would be “clear advantages” to hold it before the busy summer season.

Speaking about the importance for the families to get answers, he said: “They are at the heart of this inquest. What we are doing is for them to understand what has happened.”

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