By: CECÍLIA PIRES
A BEACH near Sagres where four adults drowned a year ago while trying to save three children still only has one small and discrete sign informing users about rules and procedures when swimming in public spaces.
Wednesday, October 22, marked the first anniversary of the deaths of Robert Fry, 53, his wife Deborah, 49, both from Wooten Bassett, in Wiltshire, England, their close friend Barbara Jean Dinsmore, 43, and a German man whose identity has never been released by the authorities.
The adults died while trying to rescue three of their children who had been caught out by sudden strong tides at Tonel beach (see The Resident edition of October 26 of 2007).
The place was, and still is, frequently visited by tourists due to its wild beauty and remains a sanctuary for surfers thanks to the good waves and strong tides. Although long recognised as being a potentially dangerous place by both users and the authorities, Tonel beach still does not have any clear, special signs alerting visitors about its strong tides.
According to Commander Marques Pereira of the Portimão Maritime Authority, during the high season, the beach is monitored by lifeguards, like many other beaches in the Algarve.
Out of season it is up to the Maritime Authority to regularly check the sea conditions and the beach’s safety and decide if the alerting signs are needed or not.
When the tides are too strong and dangerous, “alert signs informing the visitors that the beach is not being monitored by lifeguards are placed in the area”, explains Marques Pereira. However, he adds, because sometimes the signs are destroyed by stronger waves or by people who cannot see their relevance, as soon as the sea conditions return to safety, the Maritime Authority takes them back to the storage until they are needed again.
As the Maritime Authority does not have enough staff to regularly inspect the beach throughout the year, Commander Marques Pereira believes local residents and beachgoers should communicate with the authorities more in order to improve the safety of the beach.
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