COUNTY NEWS: Camber Sands witnesses give their accounts

The five friends who died at Camber Sands in August. (Clockwise from top left) Nitharshan Ravi, brothers Kobinathan and Kenugen Saththiyanathan, Inthushan Sriskantharasa and Kurushanth Srithavarajah SUS-170314-163223001
The five friends who died at Camber Sands in August. (Clockwise from top left) Nitharshan Ravi, brothers Kobinathan and Kenugen Saththiyanathan, Inthushan Sriskantharasa and Kurushanth Srithavarajah SUS-170314-163223001

Witnesses have spoken of the desperate life-saving attempts made by beach goers on the day five young friends died at Camber Sands last summer.

The second day of the inquest, which is being held at Muriel Matters House in Hastings this week, heard evidence from a range of witnesses who had been at the beach when the five men died on August 24, 2016.

They were Inthusan Sriskantharasa, 23, Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, Nitharsan Ravi, 22, and brothers Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18, and Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 22.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Brazilian 19-year-old Gustavo Silva Da Cruz and 36-year-old West London man Mohit Dupar at the same beach on July 24, 2016, are also to be considered as part of the inquest.

On Tuesday (June 27), the inquest heard evidence from several witnesses who had been on the beach that day including several members of the Camber Sands Beach Patrol, as well as members of the public who attempted to help.

They included taxi driver Koyesur Chowdhury and assistant manager Devon Small, who were among those who had helped pull the unconscious men ashore.

In a statement read to the inquest, Mr Chowdhury said he had been in the sea with his nephew when he noticed screaming and swam over to help. He found a group of people struggling to bring an unconscious man ashore.

He leant his help and, alongside several other members of the public, began to give CPR when the man was back on the beach.

The inquest also heard evidence from Devon Small, who had been visiting Camber Sands with his family.

Speaking in court, Mr Small said he had been walking along the beach when he noticed people in the water who appeared to be in trouble.

On closer look, he said he then saw it was a group of people attempting to bring an unconscious man out of the sea.

He entered the water and took ahold of the man, bringing him to shore.

He said he became aware of two other men being taken to shore shortly afterwards and that all three men were given CPR. He said the CPR continued for at least an hour but he believed all three men had been pronounced dead at the scene.

East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said the first three men brought out of the sea are understood to have been Nitharsan Ravi and brothers Kenugen and Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan.

The inquest also heard evidence from Beach Patrol member Katherine Morgan, who had been on duty on August 24.

She said members of the Beach Patrol helped bring at least one of the men to shore and had been among those attempting to resuscitate the men.

She told the inquest she and the other members of the team did not have formal lifeguarding responsibilities or training, but had been taught first aid as part of their role.

She confirmed that the Beach Patrol’s responsibilities were primarily land-based, with the majority of their time spent helping to reunite lost children with their parents and ensuring people obeyed beach rules.

She said they were regularly ‘inundated’ with these responsibilities.

A ‘large part’ of their responsibilities also included warning beach goers of the dangers of sandbars in the incoming tide, said Ms Morgan. She said people would often not take note of the warnings but did not say if the warning had been ignored that day.

After the three men were pulled from the water, Ms Morgan said she had also helped to evacuate swimmers from the sea.

She said the move had been made following a request from police but had caused “some hysteria” as the busy beach was cleared.

Asked by Mr Craze if “there was a potential for complete chaos.” Ms Morgan replied that “there was”.

Ms Morgan said she had also been on duty on July 24, the day Brazilian 19-year-old Gustavo Silva Da Cruz and 36-year-old West London man Mohit Dupar died.

Following the deaths of Mr Silva Da Cruz and Mr Dupar, Ms Morgan said the beach patrol ‘ramped up’ its sandbar warnings and were “a lot more observant” of people going into the sea who could be at risk. She gave the examples of people who had been drinking, couldn’t swim or were vulnerable.

Giving her evidence Ms Morgan said she believed there were signs warning of the dangers of sandbars “everywhere” but that “people don’t read them”.

The inquest heard also from several other members of the public who had been on the beach that day.

They included beach goer Stephen Deacon, from Essex, who said he had seen a group of five Asian men playing with a ball in the sea shortly before the tragic events took place.

He said he had been swimming in the sea, while pushing an inflatable dinghy carrying his three children. He said that although he considers himself to be a strong swimmer, he had struggled in the sea’s current near the sandbars and became worried enough to swim back to shore.

He said he had not seen any warning signs about the dangers of the sandbars and would not have gone swimming if he had.

The inquest continues.