Five die on Camber Sands

A rescue helicopter hovers above Camber beach after a drowning incident

Barely a month after the last incident at Camber Sands, one of Britain’s largest and most popular beaches has yet again been the scene of a tragedy, this time even greater than before.

Just after 2pm on Wednesday the emergency services were notified of a person in difficulties in the sea and, within 20 minutes two more people were reported also to be in difficulties. The air ambulance, coastguard helicopter and lifeboat were all alerted and all three were recovered within 30 minutes. All were unconscious and despite the efforts of the medical crews, it proved impossible to resuscitate them and they were declared dead at the scene. The public were asked to leave the beach and to stay away for the rest of the afternoon and evening so that the emergency services could work unhindered.

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Coastguard and lifeboat continued the search until late at night

Later, as the tide receded, two more bodies were found on the sand at 8:15pm and 8:45pm and there was a report of yet another body in the water. However, despite an extensive search by Coastguard helicopter together with Rye, Hastings and Dungeness lifeboats, nothing was found and the search was called off later in the night. Chief Superintendant Di Rosskilly, in charge of operations, said:

“We believe we now know who the men are and that they came to the beach together for the day. We believe they are all in their late teens and early 20s and come from the Greater London area. These men were not fully clothed when they were pulled from the sea but wearing clothes appropriate for being at the beach for the day.

“We have no further reports of anyone else missing from Camber and there are no on-going searches related to this incident.

“This has been an incredibly tragic incident and we are offering their next of kin support at this difficult time and our thoughts are with them.”

The victims were five young Asian men in their late teens and early twenties who lived in the Greater London area and had come down together for a day on the beach. Their swimming proficiency is not known but it is probable that they were not aware of some of the potential hazards of the beach.

So it is not possible to tell what caused the young men to find themselves in difficulties in the first place. There could be a number of reasons and these will doubtless be investigated at the inquest to be held in due course.

The precise number of people on the beach at the time is not known but it can hold – and on a hot summer’s day, often does hold – up to 25,000. There is a Coastguard presence together with a beach patrol to advise and assist people on land and also Operation Radcott – a police beach patrol. (We erroneously said in  our report of last month’s incident that this was no longer in place and we are happy to make the correction, here). However, in common with other beaches in the Rother area, (and many others throughout Britain) there are no lifeguards.


Photos: BBC S.E and Sue Mitchell

Image Credits: BBC .


  1. Like many, I am saddened and shocked by the tragic deaths of five young men at Camber Sands this week, following hard on the heels of a fatality a few weeks ago.
    One of the slightly stranger stories from the Rio Olympics was that there were no fewer than 75 lifeguards on duty in total, keeping an eye on the few hundreds of elite swimmers. I must say I was gobsmacked to hear that Rother DC employs no lifeguards at all, to keep an eye on 25,000 mostly inexperienced swimmers at Camber. The job description for Rother DC beach patrollers requires no swimming aptitude and indeed my understanding is that they are not even permitted to enter the water.
    I accept that people need to apply individual responsibility in most contexts. However, in a crowd situation, the public authority has a duty of care to inform, warn and protect against hazards, especially where these are readily identifiable. This is what happens at football matches, festivals, marches or other crowd events. There’s a fine line between Rother DC’s dozy incompetence and culpable neglect.
    I was particularly appalled by Rother DC’s press release stating that ‘in recent years we have seen a change in the make-up of visitors to Camber, including more people from outside the area who are not familiar with the sea and the dangers it can pose’. Camber has always been a popular seaside destination for Londoners and further afield, i.e. people from outside – where’s RDC’s evidence for this statement? As the victim a few weeks ago was Brazilian and the most recent ones were, we gather, of Asian origin, I can only conclude that RDC is resorting to grubby and lazy xenophobia to detract from its own shortcomings. These young men have been let down by Rother DC and their lives were no less valuable for not being ethnically British.
    We all know that Rother DC rakes in many tens of thousands of pounds in parking fees every day. What do visitors and residents get in return? Filthy public toilets (the few that remain), dilapidated scheduled monuments, unregulated on street parking. To this list we can now add lethal beaches. Rother DC is truly a national disgrace.

  2. Camber Beach is not a safe beach as many might imagine. The rip tides caused by the many sand banks are a danger to swimmers. The lads who sadly died were, it is reported, playing football on one of these sand banks before the water rose. It appears they were caught unaware of the situation and instinctively swam against the current towards the shore rather than swimming parallel to it where one might reach the beach safely further along. I have in past years had much experience of recognising the danger of the sea during scuba dives in this country. I have had some scary moments, but we always had a cover boat looking out for us. We were trained of course unlike most swimmers today. Perhaps more danger notices and instuction should be posted along the beach. Certainly one needs a suitable number of life guards keeping watch. I agree with Dominic Manning that Rother District Council has failed dismally due to their culpable neglect, and should ensure that there are trained life guards on this beach.


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