Camber deaths: Inquest 'should consider council role'

Nitharsan Ravi Image copyright PA
Image caption Nitharsan Ravi was one of five men to die at Camber Sands on 24 July

An inquest into the deaths of five men at Camber Sands will have to examine whether the local authority was to blame, a lawyer has said.

Barrister Patrick Roche represented the families of those who died at the Sussex beach last summer, at a pre-inquest review in Hastings.

Coroner Alan Craze agreed the inquest should take place before summer "in the interests of safety recommendations".

The five who died on 24 August were all from south-east London.

They were:

  • Brothers Kenugen and Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 18 and 22, from Erith
  • Nitharsan Ravi, 22, from Plumstead
  • Inthushan Sriskantharaja, 23, from Grays
  • Kurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, from Welling.

Two others, Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, and Mohit Dupar, 36, from Hayes, west London, lost their lives in July 2016.

Mr Dupar died in hospital on 28 July, four days after trying to rescue Mr Da Cruz.

Image copyright @Tashka4
Image caption Three of the five men were pulled from the water while two were found later

Mr Roche said the inquest should look at whether Rother District Council "could or should" have done more given the history of Camber Sands.

He told the pre-inquest review there had been one death there in 2015, followed by the two last July, but no remedial measures came in until after the five further deaths a month later.

"This is very much a case where the court will have to examine whether the local authority is to blame for these deaths," he said.

The coroner revealed a letter had been received from a "thoroughly disaffected" ex-employee of the council who worked for the authority until 2007.

The author said that in 2007 contracts were changed, a rescue boat was sold and life-saving employees had their employment discontinued.

Mr Craze said he had no intention of calling the author to the full inquest as his evidence was by now "so peripheral", but "it does spark me to inquire into the history".

He said the full inquest would be held in Hastings from 26 June but he would defer a decision on whether or not to hold it with a jury.

Last month, Rother council allocated £51,000 for lifeguards at Camber this summer.

They will be stationed at the beach from the late May bank holiday until the end of the summer holidays.

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