Sea Palling Rescue: ‘This is an awful outcome’

Sea Palling beach where one person died, and another was airlifted to hospital, after they got into

Sea Palling beach where one person died, and another was airlifted to hospital, after they got into difficulty in the rip tide. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

More details are emerging about Saturday's tragic events, involving four swimmers, which led to the death of one man in the water at Sea Palling.

Sea Palling beach where one person died, and another was airlifted to hospital, after they got into

Sea Palling beach where one person died, and another was airlifted to hospital, after they got into difficulty in the rip tide. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A boy aged about 14 responded to shouts for help and paddled out on a board to help two men who had got into difficulties and lost consciousness in a notorious rip tide between the beach and a reef.

The teenager pulled the pair to the beach, according to Philip Smith, spokesman for the RNLI Happisburgh Lifeboat, one of the many emergency services which raced to the scene at about 11.30am on Saturday.

A 16-year-old boy and a man in his 20s had also been caught in the strong current but managed to get ashore safely.

All four swimmers were related, according to Mr Smith. It is not known where the family was from.

Sea Palling beach where one person died, and another was airlifted to hospital, after they got into

Sea Palling beach where one person died, and another was airlifted to hospital, after they got into difficulty in the rip tide. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE


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An off-duty doctor on the beach, and a member of the public with first-aid skills, ran across and started giving the unconscious pair cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

They were soon joined by two Sea Palling RNLI lifeguards who had been alerted to the incident and raced over to help from their flagged patrol area, about 800m away.

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Within minutes four lifeboats, four teams of coastguards, two East Anglian Air Ambulances, an HM Coastguard helicopter, firefighters, East of England Ambulance Service paramedics and the police were also on the scene.

Rescuers managed to resuscitate the 26-year-old who was airlifted to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in a stable condition. But the older man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Eye witness Christine Barnard, 62, was sitting on the busy beach with her family about 180m from the drama.

'They were performing CPR for ages - I would think about half an hour - they didn't want to give up,' said Mrs Barnard, from Chelmsford, Essex, a regular visitor to Sea Palling.

She and her daughter Angela Oxley, 37, believe there should be more signs in the area, warning people about the danger of rip tides, which Mrs Oxley said were treacherous as the tide went out over sandbanks in the area.

'I've been in one and you can't stand up, it pulls you over,' said Mrs Barnard.

'Everyone on the beach was standing up to watch what was going on with the rescue. We all wanted it to be successful. It's so sad and we're so sorry for their family and friends.'

Lloyd Gladding, who lives on Beach Road in Sea Palling, said he went to the beach after hearing the sirens.

He added: 'You could see a person lying on the floor. The first crew came up and people were trying their best to save people.'

Jack Hood, RNLI Lifeguard supervisor, urged everyone to swim, wherever practical and possible, at a stretch of beach patrolled by lifeguards. He said the tragedy showed the unpredictability and potential danger of the sea.

Mr Hood added: 'This is an awful, tragic outcome and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the older man.

'For a seemingly-innocent swim in the sea on a hot day to turn into a tragedy like this is a heart-breaking thing for anyone to deal with.'

Richard Price, North Norfolk District Council member for Sea Palling, was also shocked and saddened at the news.

Mr Price said he would be meeting Angie Fitch-Tillett, the council's portfolio holder for the coast, next week to see whether there were any further safety measures the council could take.

Mr Price said new warning signs had already been put up on the ramp to the beach. Others are at the entrance to other pathway accesses.

He added: 'The problem is that if you have too many, people ignore them, and you can't have them on the beach itself because the first spring tide would wash them all away.'

Emergency services and sandcastles

It was an incongruous sight - an army of emergency service teams in full uniform including high-vis jackets and helmets, on a beach packed with scantily-clad sunbathers and chattering children building sandcastles.

Families laden with cool boxes and windbreaks continued to flip-flop their way from Sea Palling's heaving car parks to the beach ramp as the rescue drama unfolded some 800m-plus away.

To the east of the ramp, under a sky so blue that it could have been a Mediterranean scene, aquatic jet packers rose high above the sea, held up by forceful jets of water.

Most families gathered on the sands near the ramp, and close to the area patrolled by RNLI lifeguards.

But others prepared for a hike, including the family at the centre of the tragedy, had sought more space by treking to one of the nine shallow bays along Sea Palling's Blue Flag beach coastline, created by man-made barrier reefs built as a sea defence in the 1990s.

For those already on the beach when the chain of events began, a cloud of tragedy spoiled what should have been a lovely day out in rare sunshine.

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