Deaths at Camber Sands beach including Erith and Welling friends was due to misadventure, coroner says
PUBLISHED: 15:36 30 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:36 30 June 2017
The inquest ended on Friday afternoon
The drowning deaths of seven men, including three from Erith and Welling, at a popular south coast beach last summer were through misadventure, a coroner concluded on Friday.
Five young friends, including brothers Kenugen ‘Ken’ Saththiyanathan, 18, and brother Kobikanthan ‘Kobi’ Saththiyanathan, 22, from Normandy Way, Erith and Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, of Elsa Road, Welling, died at the beach after playing volleyball in the sea on August 24.
Family of each of the friends, who were all of Sri Lankan origin, confirmed they were all competent swimmers.
Although rip currents were not believed responsible, Camber has sandbars that can catch people out when the tide comes in rapidly, sometimes causing people to wade through water to reach shore, the inquest heard.
Oceanographer Dr Simon Boxall believed the five men got into trouble after heading out to a sandbar to play ball a significant distance out at sea, and then got caught out.
Amid a fast incoming tide, it appeared the men may have panicked trying to help one of their friends and then got into trouble as they tried to get back to shore.
Dr Boxall, a senior lecturer at the University of Southampton, said there also would have been strong currents which would have had a significant impact even on a strong swimmer.
As the men were far out at sea, he said he doubted whether anyone would have seen them from shore, particularly with glare facing people looking out to the water.
A month before their deaths, two men drowned at the beach as one swam out to save the other.
Nine deaths occurred at Camber in the four years from 2012 - including the seven last summer. But lifeguards were not deployed until after the five deaths last August, despite recommendations from the RNLI to employ them three years earlier.
Recording his conclusions following a five-day inquest in Hastings, East Sussex, senior coroner Alan Craze said it was “not known” whether deploying lifeguards would have prevented the deaths.
Mr Craze said: “The RNLI had recommended, amongst other measures, deploying lifeguards at the beach in 2013 but this had not happened. Of course, it is not known whether such a step would have prevented the deaths, but it has now been implemented.”