Beach tragedy kills four in Sagres.jpg

Beach tragedy kills four in Sagres


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A GROUP of surfers helped save three children but failed in their efforts to rescue four adults caught up in strong seas off the coast at Sagres late on Monday afternoon.

And, contrary to reports and official information, there were no signs on Tonel beach, where the incident happened, informing bathers that there was no lifeguard on duty and that it is a dangerous beach, The Resident can reveal. The beach where the tragedy happened is manned by a lifeguard during the bathing season, which ended at the end of September.

After helping bring the three children ashore, the bodyboarders returned to the rough sea but could not reach the three British people and one German man who had entered the water to try and save the children.

The three British victims are Robert Fry, 53, his wife Deborah, 49, from Wooten Bassett, in Wiltshire, England, and their close

Robert Fry who died on Monday trying to save his children  Photo: SUPPLIED
Robert Fry who died on Monday trying to save his children Photo: SUPPLIED

friend Barbara Jean Dinsmore, 43, known as Jean.

At the time of going to press, the German man’s identity could not be confirmed by the German Embassy. The Resident can confirm that he was a tourist in his mid 50s from northern Germany. He was married with two children.

The Frys had been staying at their holiday home in Parque da Floresta, in Burgau, with their two children Rosie, aged 11, and George, aged nine.

Staying with them were family friends Dean and Susan Plumb, and Jean and Roy Dinsmore with their two children, 11-year-old Lydia and nine-year-old Alex.

Witnesses told The Resident that the incident occurred at around 5pm on Monday at Tonel beach, which is popular with surfers and bodyboarders.

The children had been playing near a rock in the sea at low tide when they began to struggle with the strong currents. “I was surfing but I had to leave the water because the tide was too strong”, said Spanish holidaymaker Jaime Revuelta, aged 26.

Jaime, who is a regular visitor to Tonel and other surfers’ beaches on the Atlantic coast of the Algarve, close to Sagres, was at the scene with his girlfriend, Libertad Montenegro, aged 25.

“I had mentioned to Libertad that the parents were too relaxed about the kids’ safety because the tide was too strong even for us”, he said.

A few minutes after saying this, Jaime started to run to the water because it was obvious the children were in trouble. Other people were also running towards the children. “I tried to reach them but I couldn’t because the tide stopped me and luckily there was a group of bodyboarders in the water that reacted when all the commotion started”, said Jaime.

Commander João Barbosa, the spokesperson for the Portuguese Navy, told The Resident that the German man managed to get his daughter, who was in the water with the two other children, to safety. He then went back into the water to help the other two children. A witness said they noticed the German man unconscious in the sea and dragged him on to the beach. Attempts to revive him failed and witnesses believe that he suffered a cardiac arrest but this cannot be confirmed by the German Embassy.

The group of bodyboarders managed to rescue the children and went back for the adults that had dived into the sea to help. According to Jaime, a young man, aged around 30, had already been pulled out by the strong tide, as well as two women. “They managed to rescue one of the adults, the man, using the boards and brought him to the beach”. The bodyboarders were unable to rescue the four victims.

Jaime said that when the emergency teams arrived, about 35 to 40 minutes later, the four victims were dead. “The bodies were recovered by the Maritime Police boat, which arrived about one hour later”, he said.

However, Barbosa said the Maritime rescue boat arrived 17 minutes after being called to the scene at 5pm and said that the emergency services were already there. The boat picked up one of the victims out of the sea, while the other three were washed up on the shore.

Three other adults, including Mrs Dinsmore’s husband Roy, were taken to hospital following the incident, as were two of the children, to be treated for minor injuries. At the time of going to press, a spokesperson from Barlavento hospital in Portimão confirmed that one person was being kept in for observation and only as a precautionary measure. He is physically well but doctors decided to keep him in the hospital to receive psychological assistance. The patient is believed to be Dean Plumb and his wife, Susan, has been with him since being admitted.

Isilda Gomes, the Civil Governor, said on Monday that an aunt of the orphaned Fry children was on her way to be with them. On Wednesday, the British Embassy in Lisbon officially confirmed the identities of the victims and that the families were receiving consular assistance from the British Consul in the Algarve, Celia Edwards.

A spokesperson from Parque da Floresta said: “Everyone at the Vigia Group is deeply saddened by this terrible tragedy. We are, of course, doing all we can to help the children and the families of those who have been lost”.

Families’ plea

A JOINT statement was released from the families of the victims on Tuesday night.

“We are deeply shocked by the events of yesterday and need time to come to terms with the loss of three of our loved ones. Our

TV crews descended on Wootton Bassett to report the tragedy  Photo: Swindon Advertiser.
TV crews descended on Wootton Bassett to report the tragedy Photo: Swindon Advertiser.

priority now is to provide support to the bereaved children involved and ask that the media respect our privacy and that of our family and friends at this very difficult time”.

Friends devastated

According to The Swindon Advertiser newspaper in England, a neighbour of the Fry family in the UK, Fiona Shaw, said: “It is devastating news. They were just a hard-working couple who did the best for their children.”

Nancy Bryant, Wiltshire County Council cabinet member for education, said: “This is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved and our thoughts and sympathy are with the children, their families and friends at this extremely sad time.”

Mark Bryce’s daughter is one of the best friends of one of the Dinsmore’s children. “I have had the painful task of breaking the news to my daughter who is best friends with Lydia and who will be devastated.”

Dangerous beach

A local fisherman, who has been a surfer for more than three decades, Cláudio Climaco, said the relaxed way the group was letting the children play in the water was “irresponsible”.

He said: “I only arrived after the accident happened but, at that time of the day, everybody is aware of the tides. The waves were more than one-and-a-half metres high despite the low tide.”

Several local residents told The Resident that these kind of accidents never happen on that beach because people know about the dangers.

“Usually, the only accidents we have in this coast is with fishermen that aren’t from here and risk their lives on the cliffs”, explained a local resident who did not want to be identified.

Beach safety information

A SPOKESPERSON for the Portuguese Navy has confirmed to The Resident that a sign with information about safety procedures for swimmers can be seen at the entrance to Tonel beach.

However, the sign is only available in Portuguese.

Commander João Barbosa said that the beach has an ‘Edital de Praia’, where safety procedures are listed. This mandatory document is compiled by the maritime authorities and placed along the coastline, as well as at rivers and dams.

The signs inform swimmers that they must avoid going into the water after eating and that they must always respect the lifeguard’s instructions and recommendations. The meaning of the safety flags (green for swimming, yellow for caution, and red for staying out of the water) is also explained in the sign.

However, the placard does not provide a timetable of low and high tides, nor does it inform visitors whether a given location is known to have dangerous currents and strong tides.

Gilberto Viegas, the president of Vila do Bispo Câmara, believes that legislation about beach safety should be reviewed. However, he also considers that even with proposed legislative changes, people should still take responsibility for their personal safety and others around them.

Following the accident at Tonel beach, Gilberto Viegas told The Resident that the câmara has no power to put up any extra safety warnings for beachgoers as “it’s the navy’s jurisdiction, through the local Capitania Marítima (the maritime police),” he explained.

However, he adds, all entities “should reconsider how the beach management is being organised”. He believes “this could help to change the way lifeguards work” (only during the summer bathing season) and “to better protect the coast and its visitors”.

Psychological assistance

VILA DO Bispo Câmara was called by the emergency teams to help with psychological assistance on Monday afternoon, after the incident at Tonel beach.

According to the president of Vila do Bispo Câmara, Gilberto Viegas, this is normal procedure in these types of cases.

“All câmaras have a psychologist and, as our help was requested, we immediately called our psychologist”, he told The Resident, adding that a member of the local council was also called “because of her experience in the tourism industry to help with translations”.

However, the support system of the families is now under the supervision of the Faro Civil Governor, Isilda Gomes.