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Grandmother dies five days after being pulled from sea

PUBLISHED: 13:45 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:28 19 August 2020

Robin Spruce, who died following a swimming accident in north Norfolk. Picture: File photo supplied by Stage Direct/Sheringham Little Theatre

Robin Spruce, who died following a swimming accident in north Norfolk. Picture: File photo supplied by Stage Direct/Sheringham Little Theatre

Archant

A devoted husband has paid tribute his wife - and told of the harrowing moments in the sea off Overstrand that led to her death.

Robin Spruce (left) started the Black Cat Theatre with her husband at their house in Briston. She has died following an accident at Overstrand beach. Picture: Supplied by the familyRobin Spruce (left) started the Black Cat Theatre with her husband at their house in Briston. She has died following an accident at Overstrand beach. Picture: Supplied by the family

Robin Spruce, 77, from Briston, died on Saturday, August 16, following the visit to Overstrand beach on August 11.

Noel Spruce, her husband, recalled the tragic moment he realised his wife was in trouble.

Mr Spruce, 75, said: “I went in for a dip first. There were some breakers about 5m-10m out, and I got bowled over a couple of times.

“I said to her: ‘just be careful if you go out’. She went in for a dip, and about 10 minutes later I heard this commotion in front of me, and saw two young men struggling to lift a body over the breakwater.

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 familyRobin 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

“I ran forward and that’s when I discovered, to my horror, that it was my wife.”

Mr Spruce said people on the beach including two off-duty nurses and a fireman did their best to help before the police, Coastguard and ambulance officers arrived.

The East Anglian Air Ambulance flew in and the beach was cleared for it to land, and Mrs Spruce was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for treatment.

But Mr Spruce said he she had suffered a cardiac arrest on the beach, and her condition was more serious than first thought.

The beach in Overstrand. Picture: Casey Cooper-FiskeThe beach in Overstrand. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

He said: “She was unconscious but there was the feeling she would eventually come around. But in fact, she had suffered massive brain damage.

“We can only conclude that she was struck over by the breakers and probably struck her head on the sea bed. She never regained consciousness.”

Mr Spruce said his wife’s daughter, Lucy Horncastle, 51, who lives in London, rushed back from her own holiday in France, and they “said their final goodbyes” before she died.

He said he wanted to thank the members of the public and the emergency services who did everything they could to help.

Mr Spruce said his wife was a strong swimmer, which only emphasised the dangers of beach swimming.

He said: “The week before she had been to Cromer to have a swim but decided it was too rough.

“There are so many warnings issued every summer but it happens time and time again. If nothing else this illustrates how dangerous the sea can be, even when it looks so calm and placid.

“I thank everyone who gave their best to save a life from the unexpected dangers of the North Sea along our beautiful coastline, and earnestly hope that visitors and residents alike will never take its deceptive calmness for granted.”

Mrs Spruce was born and raised in London, and lived in Jamaica with her first husband for eight years. She returned to Britain in 1981 and lived with her mother in Little Snoring.

She met Mr Spruce, who was originally from Cheshire, the following year, and they married in 1986.

The couple ran an architectural practice in north Norfolk for about 30 years, and they also ran a wine bar in Holt called Balthazar from 2000 to 2004.

Mrs Spruce volunteered for 15 years with the LAMS (Life and MS) Day Group at Southrepps, and had also volunteered for 10 years with Victim Support.

Three years ago, Mr and Mrs Spruce started a micro-theatre at the back of their house, called Black Cat Theatre, and Mrs Spruce had a leading roll in a performance they put on in December last year.

Mr Spruce said: “We both enjoyed the theatre and she was very much into amateur drama. She also loved gardening, and, of course, her family.”

He said he and Mrs Spruce had both signed up to be organ donors in 2001, and recipients were found for her liver and kidneys.

As well as her daughter, Mrs Spruce also had a son, who died tragically in 2001.

She was a grandmother to Jasmine, 16, and Thomas, 14.


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