Police have searched a pleasure boat as part of the investigation into the deaths of two children who sustained “critical injuries” at Bournemouth beach on Wednesday.
A 17-year-old boy from Southampton and a 12-year-old girl from High Wycombe lost their lives after being pulled from the sea in front of horrified beachgoers on Wednesday afternoon.
A man in his forties, who was “on the water” at the time but not known to the children, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, police said. He was released under investigation on Thursday evening.
Eight other children, who had minor injuries and were treated by paramedics at the scene, were also rescued. It is not thought the group all knew each other.
Forensic officers were seen onboard the Dorset Belle, which was in the harbour in Poole on Thursday, The Sun reported. A police source told the newspaper: “This vessel is under a police cordon. No one is permitted onboard or to touch the vessel.”
Dorset Police Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Farrell said there was “no suggestion” of swimmers jumping from the 1,000ft-long pier, and there had been no contact between the victims and any vessel.
Footage posted online appeared to show CPR being given to at least one person after lifeguards rushed into the water at about 4.30pm.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Farrell urged people not to speculate about what happened and asked people with images or videos to share them with police rather than on social media.
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Witnesses who were on the beach at the time of the incident reported seeing the body of a young male wash up on the shore.
Lifeguards pulled a girl from the sea next to the pier and were seen performing CPR before she was flown to hospital by air ambulance.
Thousands of people were on the beach at the time, soaking up the sun and playing in the water amid the 23C heat during the May half-term holiday.
Nicola Holton, 43, and Stuart Clark, 42, were with their two children when the tragedy unfolded and 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.
“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 dead girl was an 18-year-old boy.
His father, Rob Creech, said: “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 sea conditions in Bournemouth appeared to be calm, with very little swell running. The water temperature was 15C, meaning a wetsuit is required to swim comfortably.
The tides at Bournemouth see two highs and two lows in a 24-hour period. Like the rest of the UK, the tidal range is large, exposing large swathes of sand at low tide.
Low tide on 31 May was at 1.44pm and it was a 1m tide, while high tide was at 7.35pm and was 1.89m, making it a large tide.
This means the incident happened at mid-tide when the water would have been pushing shorewards.
Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns said the incident was a “salutary lesson” that “danger is ever present” on beaches and the ocean. Thanks to the Life Guards and the Air Ambulance who we can take for granted.”