Coastguard warning to beachgoers

Stephen PullingerCoastguards last night warned beachgoers that they were putting their lives at risk in the region's holiday resorts by flouting basic seaside safety rules.Stephen Pullinger

Coastguards last night warned beachgoers that they were putting their lives at risk in the region's holiday resorts by flouting basic seaside safety rules.

Emergency resources were also being stretched as people got into difficulties in inflatable dinghies off the coastlines of East Anglia.

Their blunt message comes after two consecutive weekends of mayhem during which Yarmouth coastguard had to co-ordinate rescues and responses to nearly 40 incidents along its stretch of coastline from Lincolnshire to North Suffolk.

Yesterday, as the desperate search for a missing 10-year-old bather in Clacton, Essex, ended in the tragic discovery of her body, lifeguards were having to warn a succession of youngsters from putting inflatable dinghies in the sea off Gorleston, despite the danger of an offshore wind being signalled by the orange windsock flown over their hut.

Incidents over the weekend ranged from a man blown out to sea in an inflatable dinghy at Walcott, to a capsized kayak at Sheringham and an overturned inflatable dinghy at Southwold.

Ahead of a predicted heatwave, which is expected to bring tens of thousands of visitors flocking to the region's beaches in the coming days, coastguard's lifeguards' liaison officer, Ian Haines said: 'When people arrive at the beach on a sunny day, it can look very inviting and they may not consider the potential dangers of the sea.

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'The land can be sheltered but with an offshore wind blowing, the sea can quickly become choppy further out and there are some strong tides off our coast.'

He said lightweight inflatables could be blown out to sea quickly - it was wisest not to take them to the beach at all and they should certainly never be used in the presence of an offshore wind.

Mr Haines said families should stick to lifeguard-patrolled beaches wherever possible and ask lifeguards for advice on beach safety if in any doubt.

He said: 'People should ring 999 and ask for the coastguard if they think someone is in trouble in the water. We would rather have 100 false alarms than one tragedy that might have been avoided.'

Sam Kendrick, the RNLI lifeguards' supervisor for Yarmouth, Gorleston and Hemsby, said last night: 'Because of the offshore wind the lifeguards have had to work like mad to keep inflatables out of the water. Within half an hour of me arriving in Gorleston at lunchtime I saw them go up and advise up to 10 people carrying them down to the sea.'

He urged families to stick within the red and yellow flags which marked the patrolled areas on beaches and look out for an orange windsock flying which signalled offshore winds.

The best friend of missing Yarmouth bather Daniel Reid spoke yesterday of his desperate attempts to stop him drowning nearly two weeks ago.

Barry Curtis struggled for 15 minutes to rescue Mr Reid, a non-swimmer, who ended up out of his depth and disappeared yards off Yarmouth's unpatrolled North Beach on August 6.

The unemployed courier, who shared a house with Mr Reid, a jobless caterer, in Cobholm, said: 'I was in the sea and facing the beach and heard Dan calling my name and looked round to see him disappear.

'I grabbed hold of him but we were both going under, then I felt the water pulling Dan away from me. I was pulled under with him, but managed to come to the surface and then he was gone.'

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