Grandmother drowned at beach despite husband’s warning over wave danger

Robin Spruce, who died after a swimming accident at Overstand in north Norfolk. Picture: Supplied by

Robin Spruce, who died after a swimming accident at Overstand in north Norfolk. Picture: Supplied by the family/Lloyd Durham Funeral Services - Credit: Archant

The husband of a woman who drowned while swimming at Overstrand has told an inquest into her death how he had warned her about the danger of rough waves.

The beach at Overstrand. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

The beach at Overstrand. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske - Credit: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Sylvia Robin Spruce, 77, who was known by her middle name, died on August 16, five days after she was pulled unconscious from the sea by members of the public.

At an inquest into her death at Norfolk Coroner’s Court, her husband, Noel Spruce, 75, said she had been a regular sea swimmer.

He said: “She thoroughly enjoyed swimming and was a capable swimmer favouring the sea when the water was kind and the weather was warm. It was a late spring and summer hobby that was hers more than mine.”

Robin Spruce enjoyed a full and varied life with her husband including a shared love of family, thea

Robin Spruce enjoyed a full and varied life with her husband including a shared love of family, theatre, gardening and volunteering. Picture: Supplied by the family/Lloyd Durham Funeral Services - Credit: Archant

The Briston couple visited Overstrand to swim on August 11. Mr Spruce: “Though the waves didn’t look much, I was surprised by their strength. They knocked me over a couple of times.

“When I came back I warned Robin that it was rougher than it looked and said she might be better staying in the shallows.”


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Mr Spruce said he then became aware of a commotion about 10 minutes later.

Robin Spruce had volunteered for 15 years with the LAMS (Life and MS) Day Group at Southrepps, and f

Robin Spruce had volunteered for 15 years with the LAMS (Life and MS) Day Group at Southrepps, and for 10 years with Victim Support. Picture: Supplied by the family/Lloyd Durham Funeral Services - Credit: Archant

“I saw two men pulling a third person out of the sea,” he said. “They were calling for helping hands so I got up and went towards them to help.

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“It was only on my way over that I realised the person they were helping from the water was Robin. I thought that she looked dead. It was a dreadful feeling.”

The inquest heard two off-duty nurses and a fireman attempted CPR before emergency services arrived. Air ambulance paramedics managed to establish a pulse but she suffered a cardiac arrest.

Robin Spruce (front row, second from right) with others at the Black Cat Theatre, which she and her

Robin Spruce (front row, second from right) with others at the Black Cat Theatre, which she and her husband started at their house in Briston. Picture: Supplied by the family - Credit: Archant

“People around me realised we were husband and wife and held my hand and told me to talk to her although I didn’t think she was still there. The efforts to get her breathing again were not working,” said her husband.

Mrs Spruce, who is also survived by her daughter and two teenage grandchildren, died later at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The medical cause of death was global hypoxic brain injury due to drowning.

Mr Spruce has said he believes his wife was knocked over by the breakers and probably struck her head on the sea bed. She never regained consciousness.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, Norfolk senior coroner, Jacqueline Lake, thanked people on the beach for their efforts in trying to save Mrs Spruce.

She said: “There were a number of members of the public and I would publicly like to thank all of those who helped out on the day.”

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