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Camber drowning deaths ruled as misadventure with it 'not known' if lifeguards would have saved men

The deaths of seven men who drowned at south coast beach Camber Sands at the height of summer last year were the result of misadventure, a coroner has ruled.

The drownings saw lifeguards brought in at the popular East Sussex spot for the first time, three years after it had been recommended by the RNLI but not acted on because of budget concerns.

However senior coroner Alan Craze ruled it was "not known" whether the presence of lifeguards would have prevented the deaths that occurred on two separate days at the three-mile-wide beach.

Five young friends, aged 18 to 27, died while playing volleyball in the water at Camber last summer. Credit: ITV News

The inquest heard the men fell victim to "hidden dangers" lurking below the calm surface at Camber, which sees around 30,000 visitors a day in peak season.

Mohit Dupar, 36, died trying to reach Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, as he got into fatal difficulty in the water on July 24 last year.

Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, left, and Mohit Dupar died at Camber on July 24 last year. Credit: ITV Meridian

A month later, five young friends on a day trip from London drowned at the same beach after being caught out while playing volleyball on a sandbar, a water-locked section of sand that emerges during low tide.

The men, who had moved to the UK from Sri Lanka and were described as very able swimmers, are believed to have died as they struggled in a rapidly incoming tide.

The sandy East Sussex beach becomes a popular spot for swimmers in the summer months. Credit: PA

An oceanographer told the inquest the men had been so far out at sea he doubted anyone would have seen them from shore, with the sunny day creating a glare facing people looking out to the water.

The August 24 victims were brothers Ken and Kobi Saththiyanathan, 18 and 22, and their friends Nitharsan Ravi, 22, Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23, and 27-year-old Gurushanth Srithavarajah.

Concerns over the safety of swimmers at Camber had previously been raised after isolated drownings in 2012 and 2015.

Lifeguards began special patrols at Camber Sands in the wake of the death of the five friends. Credit: ITV News

Recording his conclusions after a five-day inquest in Hastings, senior coroner Mr Craze said: "The RNLI had recommended, amongst other measures, deploying lifeguards at the beach in 2013 but this had not happened.

"Of course, it is not known whether such a step would have prevented the deaths, but it has now been implemented."

Rother District Council's executive director defended the decision not to employ lifeguards after the 2013 risk assessment.

Dr Anthony Leonard said the council did not have a "bottomless pit" of money and the beach had had relatively few incidents prior to 2012.

Following calls for improved safety, Rother District Council agreed in February this year to allocate £51,000 in its 2017/18 budget for seasonal lifeguard cover this summer at Camber.