Portugal drowning victims named

Brian O'Dwyer and Lara Lewis Image copyright other
Image caption Fishermen pulled Lara Lewis and her grandparents from the sea

A five-year-old British girl and her 66-year-old grandfather who drowned in Portugal after being hit by a large wave have been named.

Lara Lewis and Brian O'Dwyer were swept into the sea at the resort of Nazare, which is 60 miles north of Lisbon, at 14:00 local time on Tuesday.

They had been strolling on Salgado beach with the girl's grandmother when the wave dragged them into the sea.

Fishermen pulled them out of the water but only the woman survived.

The Foreign Office did not confirm the names after sources disclosed the details.

A spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of the death of two British nationals in Portugal and we are in touch with the local authorities."

The girl's parents, Philip and Sian Lewis, were reported to have been on the beach at the time of the incident. The grandmother was taken to hospital and is said to be out of danger.

Neighbours in Hackney, east London, have paid tribute to the family.

David Mason, a translator, said he had known Lara since she was a baby. "I remember them bringing her home in her dad's arms and they were such a happy family," he said.

"She was a very happy girl who would always say 'hello Dave' when she saw me. This is terribly sad news and for a lot of people it's still sinking in."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption It is thought the family had been strolling in an area of Salgado beach that is not monitored by lifeguards

Lara's father is a professor of remote sensing at University College London.

Professor Jon French, head of the department of geography at the university, said all at the university were "deeply saddened" to learn of the deaths.

"The loss of Lara and of her grandfather, who was also drowned in this same incident, is a truly heartbreaking tragedy and our deepest condolences go to Professor Lewis and his family," he said.

A spokesman for the Maritime Authority in Nazare said the part of the beach where the incident happened is widely known to be hazardous.

He said: "The sea in that beach is very dangerous. The wave that swept them in was very big.

"The beach has information that tells you about that area where they were and it tells you there's no surveillance, no lifeguards, on that part of the beach. It's very far from where they are stationed."

He said two local fishermen brought the bodies back to the shore, where lifeguards were the first on the scene and attempted first aid on the beach.

The spokesman added that the deaths were "very unusual" for the area.

The area on Portugal's exposed Atlantic coast is popular with surfers because of its large waves.

Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara broke the world record in the area in November 2011 for riding the largest measured wave, at 78ft (23.7m).

The Foreign Office warns holiday-makers on its website to take care on Portugal's beaches and to obey the warnings of lifeguards.

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