AN INQUEST has heard how swimmers could have been “caught up in a riptide”, as an investigation into two deaths off Bournemouth beach continues. 

Dorset’s coroner’s officer Nicola Muller has said emergency services were called to the waters around Bournemouth Pier on Wednesday, May 31 “following suggestion they had been caught in a riptide.” 

Read more: Bournemouth beach: Cause of death of two children revealed

Until now, there has been widespread speculation as to how Sunnah Khan, 12, and Joe Abbess, 17, died in hospital following the incident. 

Dorset coroner Rachael Griffin said a postmortem examination conducted by Dr Basil Purdue ruled the provisional cause of death as being drowning. 

Bournemouth Echo:

What is a riptide? 

Rip tides, or rip currents, are strong currents which can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallow water into deeper water. 

They can be found at man-made structures such as piers and groynes, as well as river mouths and estuaries. 

They tend to flow at 1–2mph but can reach 4–5mph, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer, according to the RNLI. 

How do you avoid riptides? 

The RNLI say: “Rip currents can be difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea's surface. 

“Even the most experienced beachgoers can be caught out by rips, so don’t be afraid to ask lifeguards for advice. They will show you how you can identify and avoid rips. 

“The best way to avoid rips is to choose a lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which have been marked based on where is safer to swim in the current conditions.  

“This also helps you to be spotted more easily, should something go wrong.” 

What to do if you’re caught in a riptide? 

The RNLI issues the following advice: 

  • Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted. 
  • If you can stand, wade don’t swim. 
  • If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore. 
  • Always raise your hand and shout for help. 

Speaking at the inquest opening, Dorset coroner Rachael Griffin said: “I wish to take this opportunity to remind all those who enter the sea, or any open water, to be aware of the powers of the water and the risks associated with swimming in open water.   

“It is important that they are aware of how to react when problems arise, and I would urge people to follow the guidance provided by national agencies such as the RNLI.   

“These issues are not just related to the coastline here in Dorset, but to the coastline nationally and internationally, and any body of open water.”