Camber Sands: Chief defends lack of lifeguards

Camber Sands Image copyright PA
Image caption Camber Sands had no lifeguard cover before the deaths of the seven men last summer

A decision not to take RNLI advice to put lifeguards on a beach three years before seven men drowned there has been defended by a council chief.

Dr Anthony Leonard, executive director at Rother District Council in East Sussex, faced questions at an inquest into the deaths at Camber Sands.

He said the decision was "balanced" against other needs and there was not a "bottomless pit" of money.

"It was based on operations and known factors at the time," he added.

The inquest in Hastings heard the RNLI had recommended lifeguards be stationed at the beach after a risk assessment in 2013.

The charity had offered to deploy lifeguards, but the offer was not taken up.

Image copyright PA
Image caption "Competent swimmer" Nitharsan Ravi was studying aeronautical engineering at Brighton

In July last year, Mohit Dupar, 36, tried to reach Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, as he got into difficulty off the coast but both died.

A month later, five young friends of Sri Lankan origin, who all lived in the London area, drowned after being seen playing volleyball in the sea.

'Obvious step'

Dr Leonard told the Hastings inquest: "The risk assessment had some merit in it...

"[It] had to be balanced on other things, like safety in the car park, as well as measures on the beach."

Up until 2012, Camber had seen relatively few incidents since Rother took responsibility for the beach in 1974, Dr Leonard said.

Prior to the deaths the beach had no lifeguards and was manned by patrol staff.

East Sussex senior coroner Alan Craze said: "It is never going to provide a guarantee that there will not be another fatality but this was the single most obvious step to be taken."

Tristan Cawte, manager of the Camber Kitesurf Centre, said: "As the tide comes in and people are sun-bathing on a sandbar, they can be completely unaware water is coming in."

The inquest continues.

Camber Sands victims

Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18, known as Ken, died alongside his brother Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 22, known as Kobi, both from Erith, south east London.

Their three friends, who also died on 24 August, were Nitharsan Ravi, 22, from Plumstead, Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23, from Grays, Essex, and Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, from Welling.

The inquest has previously heard all five were fit, healthy and competent swimmers, with some having visited the beach at Camber before without incident.

On 24 July, Mohit Dupar, 36, from Hayes, west London, attempted to reach Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, after he got into difficulty.

Mr Silva Da Cruz died at the scene. Mr Dupar died in hospital four days later.

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