‘It was empty, everyone was just staring’: Passengers on cruise at centre of Bournemoth drowning tragedy describe how boat set out to sea as chaos caused by dangerous rip tide unfolded around them
- The Dorset Belle was reportedly been impounded by Dorset Police this afternoon
The boat impounded by police after the deaths of two children in the sea next to Bournemouth pier continued with its 40-minute Channel pleasure cruise despite chaos in the sea around them, passengers revealed today.
The 78ft Dorset Belle was seized yesterday afternoon. The vessel, which operates hourly and can carry up to 80 people, is now under guard at Poole Harbour.
Luke Owen was on board the cruiser at 4pm on Wednesday – revealing that lifeguards on the beach had warned people about riptides and not to swim close to the pier prior to the tragedy. A boy from Southampton, 17, and a girl from Buckinghamshire, 12, perished, and eight others had to be rescued.
Mr Owen said that as the Dorset Belle set off ‘everyone was on the beach’ – but within minutes ‘no one was on the beach. It was empty, everyone was just staring. I’m first thinking it was a shark attack’.
He said: ‘To be honest, to me it sounds like a terrible tragedy. It was said quite a few times about the rip tides the day before. And the lifeguards were advising people not to get close to the pier’.
The scene on the pleasure cruiser in the minutes after leaving Bournemouth Pier as swimmers got into trouble
The Dorset Belle still remained at Poole Harbour last night, being watched by police officers. Passengers on board said they were chocked the pleasure cruise continued given the chaos in the water nearby
A 12-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy have died after a major incident took place in the water on Bournemouth beach. Heartbroken relatives of the young girl paid tribute, with one saying ‘you showed me what love is’
A man aged in his 40s who was ‘on the water’ at the time was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter but has been released under investigation while police, Marine Accident Investigation Branch and Maritime and Coastguard Agency inquiries continue.
Mr Owen and his family set out from Bournemouth’s historic pier in the minutes before 10 people got into trouble in the water on Wednesday afternoon.
The vessel had visited Bournemouth Pier at 4pm, just minutes before the first 999 calls were made. Detectives have said that no physical contact was made between the swimmers and any vessel or jet-ski and those involved had not been jumping off the pier.
Dorset Police are facing calls to clarify the circumstances that led to their deaths to end ‘wild speculation’.
Luke Owen told the Mirror that he spoke to staff on the boat who said that one person was pulled from the water – and another was missing.
He said: ‘As he’s told me that, we looked up to the sea and the 17-year-old was being pulled out. The ambulance came across and collected him.
‘When it’s something like that it kind of hits you. Especially as I was with the family, my little one especially, I wanted to get out of there. My son’s 14 so he wanted to see what was going on so we looked briefly and police were saying for people to move.’
Heartbroken relatives of the 12-year-old girl who died in the Bournemouth beach tragedy have remembered the tragic youngster, with one claiming the child ‘showed me what love is’.
Tributes poured in for the girl, and the 17-year-old boy who also died, as police continue to probe a pleasure boat amid concerns that the pair got into difficulty in the water in the wake of a vessel.
It remains unclear what exactly caused the incident, which caused RNLI lifeguards to swarm into the sea after 10 people got into trouble, but a father of one of the teenagers who survived the horrific incident said it was a ‘rip tide’ that ‘took them out’.
The 78ft Dorset Belle was seized by Dorset Police yesterday afternoon. The vessel, which operates hourly and can carry up to 80 people, is now under guard at Poole Harbour, five miles away from where it usually operates off Bournemouth Pier.
And in a fresh statement last night, police officers reiterated there was no suggestion that jet skis had been involved or that the youngsters jumped off the pier, as they released a man in his 40s, who had been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, under investigation.
The father of 18-year-old Lauren Tate, one of the eight survivors who spent a short time in hospital after the incident, said a rip tide appeared to have been involved in the tragedy.
‘We’ve seen stuff about boats and jet skis, but it wasn’t like that. She was just swimming in the sea with her friends when the rip tide took them out.
‘She was lucky to get pulled out by the coastguard and one of her friends was rescued by a paddleboarder’.
Lauren had attended college with the teenager who sadly died.
Nicola Holton, 43, and Stuart Clark, 42, were on the beach with their two children when the tragedy unfolded.
The couple said there had been an announcement about a ‘dangerous riptide’ made at 4pm.
The cause of the undercurrent, which led to RNLI lifeguards swarming into the sea, still remains unclear as police officers continue their probe for a third day.
Others who were on the beach when the disaster occurred have praised the ‘magnificent’ young lifeguards for their heroic efforts.
Dr Rob Rosa, 48, a former GP and chief medical officer, had been on the promenade where he saw the young girl being rushed onto the beach.
He told the Telegraph: ‘These were young kids in their early twenties who have never seen anything like this and they were exceptional.
The cruise boat called Dorset Belle, which usually sails from Bournemouth Pier, has been placed under the guard of Poole Harbour
People were seen laying flowers on Bournemouth Beach, near the pier, following the deaths of the two young people
The cruise boat called the Dorset Belle, which usually sails from Bournemouth Pier, has been placed under the guard of Poole Harbour by police
‘They cleared the beach, set a perimeter and shielded the bodies. They could have frozen, but they didn’t.’
Dr Rosa said the young lifeguards also had to marshal the crowds, as ‘hoards of people’ were running down with their cameras ‘trying to take photos’.
The lifeguards also tried to ‘shield’ young children from seeing the horror, the witness said.
The Dorset Belle still remains in Poole Harbour, and no one is currently allowed on board or able to touch the vessel.
On the day of the horrendous incident, the Dorset Belle reportedly had made numerous circuits around Bournemouth Pier according to the online tracker MarineTraffic.
A number of boating restrictions are in place around the famous Dorset pier.
Vessels cannot go above speeds of six knots in an area which is clearly marked out by yellow buoys. Licensed commercial pleasure boats, however, are allowed to go in and out of the pier at certain scheduled times.
These boats are supposed to follow a designated shipping lane, according to Bournemouth’s Council website.
A police source told The Times: ‘This vessel is under a police cordon. No one is permitted onboard or to touch the vessel.’
One couple said that there had been a dangerous riptide announcement around 4pm
Heartbroken relatives of the 12-year-old girl who died in the Bournemouth beach tragedy have paid tribute to the youngster, with one claiming the child ‘showed me what love is’.
The Dorset Belle pictured packed with tourists next to Bournemouth Pier in August 2021
The seize of the boat comes after an MP claimed that Dorset Police were investigating whether wash from a vessel had impacted the young people getting into trouble.
Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, raised concerns that a vessel may have created ‘conditions’ that made the water ‘more dangerous’.
The Conservative politician said: ‘It would seem not a far reach to draw a conclusion that while the vessel may not have physically touched the young people, perhaps it created the conditions which made being in the water more dangerous by the speed it was going.’
Two uniformed police officers were seen inspecting the tourist boat at 4.20pm, the paper reported.
The boat, which can accommodate up to 80 guests, takes tours every hour on the hour between 11am and 5pm, showing tourists views of the Chines, Sandbanks, Studland and Old Harry Rocks.
The boat, which can accommodate up to 80 guests, takes tours every hour on the hour between 11am and 5pm, showing tourists views of the Chines, Sandbanks, Studland and Old Harry Rocks. Pictured: The Dorset Belle sailing past the pier in 2021
Tonight, the Dorset Belle remains at Poole Harbour under police watch
Today, MarineTraffic shows the popular tourist boat stationed at Poole Harbour – around five miles away from where it’s usually stationed at the pier.
Police vehicles surrounded the boat but the force did not provide any details when contacted by MailOnline this evening.
Eight other children were hurt after getting into trouble in the water close to the beach and pier in Dorset packed with half-term holidaymakers and locals on Wednesday afternoon.
Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Corrigan pleaded with the public ‘not to speculate about the circumstances surrounding the incident’ in a bid to protect enquiries’ and ‘out of respect for the victims’ families’.
He urged those with footage to submit it to police officers rather than posting it online.
Supt Corrigan added: ‘Early investigation indicates that there was no physical contact between a vessel and any swimmers at the time of the incident and there is no suggestion of people jumping from the pier or jet skis being involved.
‘We know that the beach was very busy when this incident occurred. I am urging anyone who saw what happened, or has any information that may assist our investigation, to please come forward.
‘Also, I urge anyone with relevant phone footage that may assist our enquiries to submit it to Dorset Police via the Major Incident Public Portal quoting Operation Marble rather than sharing it on social media.’
The detective chief did not reveal what he believed had caused the tragedy.
The Dorset Belle docked against Bournemouth Pier in a photo taken in July 2021
A sign on Bournemouth Beach which was packed by holidaymakers and locals yesterday
‘I would like to sincerely thank the members of the public who went to help the people in trouble in the water. I am also very grateful for the wider beachgoers who cleared the beach really quickly and allowed the emergency services to do their work’, he said.
‘This incident sparked a multi-agency response from a range of emergency services, including the ambulance service, HM Coastguard, the RNLI, the fire service, BCP Council and Dorset Police.
‘All these emergency responders came together to provide a really swift and well-coordinated response and did everything they could to save lives. I thank all of those responders for their professionalism and compassion in the face of this tragedy.’
Officers from Dorset police will continue with patrols over the next few days, with support from the local councils beach services and the RNLI. Anyone with concerns or information about the incident are urged to approach them.
Councillor Vikki Slade, leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, said what happened in Bournemouth on Wednesday must have been a ‘terrifying’ experience.
She said: ‘Again I want to add our sincere condolences to the families of the children who lost their lives, and our thoughts are with the families of the young people that were in the water.
‘It must have been a really terrifying experience for everybody.
‘The services worked incredibly well together. Our staff on the beach all rallied round to support the emergency services.’
She said there are additional staff available for the public on the beach on Thursday and over the weekend, adding: ‘The beach is busy. We are making sure that the RNLI are very visible and that our teams are available there to support people and make sure that they feel safe on the beach.’
She said Bournemouth ‘remains a really fantastic place to visit’, adding that the incident needs to be investigated properly.
‘And we are confident with our partners that any lessons that need to be learned in the future will will be learned,’ she said.
Families arriving at the beach on Thursday spoke of their shock at the previous day’s events.
One woman, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It’s such a shame, people just come here to have fun, it’s a real tragedy.’
One of the men was pulled from the water and had to be given CPR on the beach by lifeguards before being taken away by air ambulance
Body is found after a man failed to return home from an open swimming session at a beauty spot
A body has been found after a man failed to return home from an open swimming session at a beauty spot.
Emergency services including Northumbria Police and Tyne and Wear Fire and
Rescue Service were called to Hetton Lyons Country Park in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, late last night, Wednesday, May 31.
After a search of the area the body of a man was recovered.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: ‘At around 11.30pm we received a report of concern for the welfare of a 55-year-old man, who had not returned home from an open water swimming session in Hetton Lyons Park.
‘Police attended the area, and assisted by colleagues from the National Police Air Service and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service carried out a full and thorough search of the area.
‘Sadly those searches led to the discovery of the body of a man. His family have since been notified and are currently being supported by specialist officers.’
Eyewitness Howard Cohen, from London, said: ‘I could see a lot of commotion going on, there were a lot of ambulances, police and people rushing to the beach.
‘Later on they cleared the beach. It was just awful. At the time there was a lot of panic going on with the police and ambulance.’
Mackenzie Creech, 18, was with pals on the beach at the south coast holiday spot enjoying the sunshine when they heard shouts and screams from the pier.
He looked up and saw crowds pointing to someone in the water and rushed in with a pal to drag her onto the beach but sadly there was nothing they could do to save her.
The girl – who has not been named – died along with a 17-year-old boy in the incident which also left eight other children injured after it is believed they were dragged out to sea by a riptide after jumping from the pier.
Mackenzie told MailOnline: ‘Everything happened so quickly, one minute I was enjoying the beach with some friends and then the next we heard screaming and shouting.
‘We were on the other side of the pier but you could hear all this noise so we went over to see what was going on and people were pointing into the water.
‘I could see a body in the water, and just rushed in and scooped her up with someone else. She was face down when I got there and not moving.
‘She was in a bad way.
‘She was in a swimming costume but she didn’t appear to have any injuries on her. There were no cuts or bruises and I just knew it didn’t look good so I carried her onto the beach.
‘I put her down on the sand and by this time the emergency services had come over and they started doing CPR on her.
‘People were screaming and shouting and it was all really chaotic and then someone put some towels up as a screen while the paramedics worked on her.
‘I was hoping she would make it and I didn’t know she had passed away until I saw it on the news. I was gutted when I heard that and it’s upset me, it’s so sad something like this happened.’
Mackenzie, who is from Tilehurst near Reading and studying sport at college, added: ‘I don’t really know what happened. It was all a bit confusing.
‘People were saying they had been hit by a jet ski or a boat but there were definitely no injuries on the girl. There was no blood or cuts or anything like that.
‘What amazed me was the amount of people who were just filming everything on their phones when the emergency services were trying to do their work.
‘As I left a policeman took my details and said thanks for doing what I did but I just did what anyone would have done.’
Mackenzie’s father company director Robert Creech, told MailOnline: ‘He was very quick in his actions and was just trying to help.
‘When he told me about it, I could see he was upset and when we heard the poor girl had passed away, he was gutted.
‘It’s such a shame as all those involved are so young.
‘He had just gone down to the beach with his friends for half term and then this happened but I’m proud he did what he could to help. He’s a good lad.’
Another witness, Tom Saunders, told Sky News: ‘I was surfing on the west side with about four other people and we heard the lifeguard sirens going off, making announcements, and the beach got cleared either side.
‘Obviously we knew something had gone on and the helicopter was coming so we knew it was serious.
‘Unfortunately I saw someone receiving CPR. The lifeguards put up a screen so no-one could see but unfortunately from where we were we could.
‘The jet-skis were going round the pier looking for stuff, so me and three other surfers offered to help and actually paddled into the pier to have a look.
‘They said there were two people missing at the time, then after about half an hour they said everyone was accounted for and we just carried on.’
Earlier multiple witnesses said that people had been jumping from the pier. The sand close to the pier had to be cleared so two air ambulances could land, but sadly the two schoolchildren later died in hospital.
Witnesses described harrowing scenes as CPR was administered on the beach and some ‘idiots’ with phones were seen filming lifeguards trying to revive the two children.
Since 2004, Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency has dealt with more than 200 incidents of tombstoning, including pier jumping, leading to at least 70 injuries and 20 deaths.
Yesterday police confirmed that no vessel is believed to have been in ‘physical contact’ with the children following speculation on social media they had been hit by a jet-ski or boat. But there have been claims that the tragedy may have been caused by the wash of a jet ski.
Mackenzie Creech, pictured with his father Robert, had found the girl unresponsive in the water
The town’s historic pier on Thursday morning as litter pickers removed rubbish
MailOnline has asked Dorset Police to comment. But one local surfer said he witnessed three jetskiers ‘buzzing the pier’ close to the line on Tuesday, the day before the tragic incident. There has been an ongoing issue between jetskiers and water users around the area of the pier.
Nicola Holton, who was at the beach with her husband, said: ‘One lifeguard went to rescue two swimmers struggling but he couldn’t bring them in. He spotted another person struggling and a second lifeguard went out to them but there were multiple people in trouble.
‘The remaining lifeguard was trying to get everyone out of the water. The ambulance service came to the struggling person rescued by the second lifeguard. More lifeguards arrived to rescue another swimmer near the pier. My husband spotted another swimmer struggling. He ran to the lifeguards. The guard immediately went in and they picked him up on a jet ski.
‘I will never ever get the image out of my head of him being brought out. They cleared the beach for the air ambulance. Then another was spotted and again brought to shore to be worked on. Absolutely horrible.
‘Loads of idiots ignoring lifeguard requests to get out of the water and clear the beach. People were running towards those having CPR filming on their phones.’
Paul Moyce, 61, said he believed those involved had been jumping into the sea off the pier.
He said: ‘I think they went off the end of the pier and went out too far. They must have got caught by the current. I lived here for 61 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.’
Nicola Holton, 43, and Stuart Clark, 42, were on the beach with their two children when the tragedy unfolded. They said the summertime scene turned into something from ‘a horror film.’
Mr Clark said: ‘As we walked to the east side of the pier there was at least one but probably a few jet skiers going across the right side of the pier.
‘We didn’t take too much notice of them at the time.
‘There were announcements throughout the afternoon telling people not to climb on the pier. After 2pm it seemed like people weren’t going near it.
‘The next announcement we got was at 4pm about a dangerous riptide in the water and it wasn’t soon after that we saw a couple of swimmers in trouble out to sea.
One tearful mourner laid roses on the sand this morning as Bournemouth mourned the loss of two children
‘It got really chaotic when they brought a young man back to shore on a lifeguard jet ski. It was obvious he wasn’t alive. That’s when people started gathering around and the lifeguards were trying to clear the beach at the same time as helping the others in the water.
‘We saw the young girl get brought out too and there were no obvious injuries on her either. I just wanted to get my family off the beach with our belongings.’
Miss Holton said: ‘It was like a scene from a horror film. After an afternoon of lovely weather and the odd announcement to tell kids to stop climbing on the pier it looked like it had all settled down.
‘When we first spotted the swimmers in distress they were far out to the east side of the pier.
‘A lifeguard ran into the water with a surfboard and it seemed to take ages for him to get to them. There was an announcement to get out of the water and then the lifeguards started bringing people back to shore.
‘A few were taken to the lifeguard tent and then we saw the young man and girl brought out. We were packing up our things to leave as quickly as we could. It was just awful.
‘There were loads of idiots ignoring lifeguard requests to get out of the water and clear the beach. People were running towards those having CPR filming on their phones.’
The first person to reach the girl who died was an 18-year-old boy.
His father, Rob Creech, said yesterday: ‘My son was on the other side of the pier swimming with a few friends.
‘All of a sudden there were a lot of people on the pier shouting and screaming that there was somebody in the water. He swam to the other side of the pier and he found a young girl floating face down in the water.
‘The emergency services were just arriving at the beach so he was shouting to them and scooped her up to swim to shore. He managed to get her out onto the beach and the emergency services took it from there.’
The operation involved multiple teams from across the emergency services
The beach had to be cleared before the air ambulances were able to land
There are yellow marker buoys 200m off the beach and water craft operating inside that area are restricted to speeds of 6 knots.
One local surfer said he witnessed three jetskiers ‘buzzing the pier’ close to the line on Tuesday, the day before the tragic incident.
Lawrence Hopgood said: ‘I was surfing the night before There were 3 jetskiers buzzing the pier and getting close to the line. A lifeguard went out on a jetski and spoke to them, then left.
‘The jetskiers didn’t leave but proceeded to do donuts near the surfers, whilst filming themselves.’
Lifeguards on the busy beach had rushed into the water by Bournemouth Pier after a group of people got into difficulty in the sea at about 4.30pm on Wednesday. It is believed that all of those involved were aged between 12 and 18.
None of the other eight who were injured children were seriously harmed and they were treated at the scene by the ambulance service.
Emergency services were quickly at the scene and the teenage boy and girl were rushed to hospital after sustaining critical injuries.
Speaking last night, Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns said: ‘I express my deep condolences to the family and friends of the two young people who tragically lost their lives in Bournemouth.
‘A dreadful event in circumstances when they were enjoying beautiful weather in our town. So sad.’
The MP added that the incident was a ‘salutary lesson’ that ‘danger is ever present’ on beaches and the ocean.
He went on to thank the life guards and air ambulance members ‘who we can take for granted’.
Thousands of people were enjoying the sunny weather before being asked to leave the beach by police
Two people were taken to Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Poole Hospital
Eeman Qamar, from Southampton, was on the beach with her mother and three-month-old baby.
She told the BBC that just after 4pm lifeguards began to tell people to clear the beach, saying there had been a major incident.
‘After about 20 minutes, the first air ambulance arrived and landed right in the middle of the beach,’ she said.
Ms Qamar continued: ‘The lifeguards started getting on jet skis and boats, searching the sea and about 20 minutes later the second air ambulance arrived and it took another hour-and-a-half for them to finish the whole search and rescue operation.’
A Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service spokesperson said: ‘We were called to East Beach, Bournemouth at 4.39pm to support a multi-agency incident.
‘We have crews in attendance from Westbourne and Springbourne, together with a technical rescue team from Poole.’
A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) said: ‘We sent two air ambulances, six double-crewed land ambulances, one critical care car, two operations officers, one doctor, one hazardous area response team and one responding officer.’
HM Coastguard told MailOnline that ‘two people had been pulled from the water and passed into the care of the ambulance service’ and that ‘coastguards searched to make sure there were no other people missing and are satisfied there are not’.
Bus routes that would normally serve the Pier stops were diverted through the square.
Anyone with information about what happened should contact Dorset Police on www.dorset.police.uk or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55230083818.
Alternatively, witnesses can contact independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling Freephone 0800 555 111.
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