ALL boat operations from Bournemouth pier are suspended after tragedy

ALL boat operations from Bournemouth pier are suspended after girl, 12, and boy, 17, tragically drowned ‘after they were pulled out to sea in sudden riptide sparked by passing pleasure vessel

  • Ban on boat operations will remain pending outcome of the police investigation

All boat operations have been suspended from Bournemouth pier following the death of two swimmers last week, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council has announced.

The ban on boat operations would remain pending the outcome of a police investigation, according to the council.

Joe Abbess, 17, from Southampton, and 12-year-old Sunnah Khan, from Buckinghamshire, both died in hospital after an incident last Wednesday.

It comes after devastated friends paid tribute to the ‘ambitious’ trainee chef who died in last week’s Bournemouth beach tragedy where he got into difficulty in the water when a riptide formed close to the beach. 

A BCP (Bournemouth Christchurch Poole) Council spokesman said: ‘All boat operations from the pier have been suspended as a precaution, pending a conclusion to the police investigation.

The ban on boat operations would remain pending the outcome of a police investigation, according to the council

Joe Abbess (left), 17, from Southampton, and 12-year-old Sunnah Khan (right), from Buckinghamshire, both died in hospital after an incident last Wednesday

‘We are aware the investigation is complex and will consult with Dorset Police when the investigation is complete.’

Joe Abbess had been swimming in the water close to the pier on the popular seafront with nine other people when they became caught up in the chaos.

Today, heartbroken friends of Joe have said they are in ‘disbelief’ following the student’s death, adding that he will ‘leave a massive hole in our hearts’.

It comes as an inquest into the pair’s death opened yesterday, with the hearing being told that both children had drowned in the water after a ‘sudden riptide’ in the area. It has led to speculation that the sudden current was caused by a nearby pleasure boat, which has since been impounded by police officers. 

What is a riptide? 

Rip tides, more accurately known as rip currents and also known as simply ‘rips’, are fast-moving channels of water that move away from the shore and towards the open sea.

They can reach speeds of up to five miles per hour – faster than an Olympic swimmer – making them a leading surf hazard for all beachgoers.

The National Weather Service explains: ‘Rip currents form when waves break near the shoreline, piling up water between the breaking waves and the beach.

‘One of the ways this water returns to sea is to form a rip current, a narrow stream of water moving swiftly away from shore, often perpendicular to the shoreline.’

The more accurate term for riptides is simply a ‘rip currents’. 

One of Joe’s closest friends at college, Ben McKinnon, 17, said: ‘He was always amazing, very kind, very caring, he would always look out for others.

‘He was just an amazing person all round, very kind-hearted, well-rounded young man and he had a bright future ahead of him.

‘I think it’s a shame it was taken away from him so early. He was a very social person.’

Pupils at the college are still in a state of shock following the devastating news. 

‘The first couple of days were really hard because it was such a shock,’ Ben added.

‘I was worrying all day about where he was because I hadn’t had a response in eight hours and normally he was the type of guy to respond straight away.

‘I kind of felt it was coming from the signs, but when it finally hit it was a very rough time.’

Another friend, Jack Daniel-Woodchevers, 16, said he ‘didn’t believe it at first’ when heard of Joe’s death.

‘He was very bubbly, he was always very interactive with everyone,’ Jack said.

‘He would try and make an effort with everyone even if you were having a bad day, he would always be there for everyone.’

Leo Bennett, 20, added: ‘He definitely had pride in what he did, he bought all of his own tools and he made sure that he had resources that he would share with us.

‘It was clear that he was a very ambitious man and he knew what he wanted to do.

‘To lose him is a shame because it’s kind of taken a part of the kitchen away and we don’t have that motivation anymore.’

Joe had been studying Hospitality at City College Southampton in the hopes of owning his own restaurant in the future, it was revealed today

Last night teachers at City College Southampton, where Joe had been studying to achieve his dream of owning his own restaurant, paid tribute to him as an ‘exceptional student’. 

Martin Sim, Principal of the college, said: ‘Everybody at City College is deeply saddened to hear of the tragic incident that took place at Bournemouth beach on Wednesday, May 31. 

READ MORE HERE:  Bournemouth beach horror witness describes seeing riptide form in the sea seconds before tragedy which killed 12-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy

‘We send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the two young people who lost their lives, which we now know included one of our Hospitality students, Joe Abbess. 

‘We have informed his class of this devastating news and are providing professional support to our students and staff through this difficult time.’

His hospitality teachers added: ‘Joe was an exceptional student who made a huge impact on both the hospitality team and his classmates and he will be deeply missed. 

‘We loved teaching Joe, he was a gem, with a great sense of humour and an undeniable passion for hospitality. 

‘He helped everyone and always stepped up as the first to volunteer, he was an exemplary student. 

‘Joe was always eager to expand his knowledge and took the time to talk to us about our experiences and to learn everything he could. 

‘He was looking forward to working towards his dream of owning his own restaurant. Joe’s legacy will live on in the hearts of those who knew him.’

Southampton FC also paid tribute to Joe today, revealing he worked in hospitality at the club.  

A statement read: ‘We’re extremely saddened to hear the news of the tragic passing of Joe Abbess. Joe was not only a valued employee of Gather & Gather, the club’s hospitality and catering partner, but a cherished member of our football family here at the club. 

‘For more than a year, Joe, who was a trainee chef, had worked across the club on matchdays and was a popular colleague amongst all staff. The thoughts of everyone associated with both the club and Gather & Gather are with Joe’s family and friends at this difficult time.’

Sunnah’s mother Stephanie Williams, 32, says she has received little clarity over her death

Yesterday beachgoer Trevor Pinto has revealed how he saw the riptide form just seconds before Sunnah and Joe went under. 

He described how he was walking towards Bournemouth Pier with his son when they heard the lifeguards on the beach make an announcement about a riptide.

Mr Pinto looked out to sea and spotted the swirling current about 200 metres away and headed towards the pier at just after 4pm on May 31.

They walked to the end of the pier and saw lifeguards and jet skis recover the bodies of Sunnah and Joe from the water.

He said: ‘We were walking on the pier just after 4pm and heard an announcement from the lifeguards about a riptide.

‘We could see the riptide about 200 metres away. It was a different colour than the rest of the sea. It was on the east side of the pier and was coming towards the shore.

‘After that we walked to the end of the pier to the Key West restaurant. I took a photograph of my son there at 4.10pm.

‘We noticed a lifeguard on a jet ski looking for people under the pier and that is when we realised something was wrong. They pulled the first person from the water and started giving them CPR on the beach.

Joe Abbess, pictured here in his chefs clothes, died after being caught in a riptide on Bournemouth beach on May 31

12-year-old Sunnah Khan, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Police have impounded a 78ft pleasure boat, the Dorset Belle (pictured), following the tragedy, but have said they are keeping an open mind about what happened

‘This was about 60 metres away from where we were but there were more lifeguards looking underneath pier.

‘Some other people started shouting that they saw a body. We saw that person was wearing black T-shirt or something. That was about 20 or 30 metres away from the pier. They were also given CPR.

‘People were taking videos and filming and after that they started pushing people away.

‘The pier has two tiers to it and the only person I saw on the pier was a guy fishing. There were no jet skis.’

READ MORE HERE:  Tributes paid to ‘angel’ schoolgirl, 12, who died in Bournemouth beach tragedy as brave teenagers reveal how they pulled a drowning man from the water on day of horror 

Asked about the presence of the Dorset Belle pleasure craft, Mr Pinto said he recalled seeing it as he walked onto the pier at about 4pm but it had left by the time he reached the end of the pier at 4.10pm.

An inquest was told yesterday that Sunnah and Joe died from drowning following the riptide.

The finding raises questions about Dorset Police’s initial statement which said Sunnah and Joe suffered ‘critical injuries’. 

Police also arrested a man who had been ‘on the water’ at the time for manslaughter and impounded a pleasure cruise boat – leading to speculation about what could have lead to the deaths. 

Sunnah’s mother Stephanie Williams, 32, said she was frustrated at not been given a full explanation of the circumstances of Sunnah’s death. 

She said: ‘It’s just really difficult to accept. Somebody has potentially caused Sunnah to be taken away from us.

‘The police have only told us what they said in a statement. The cause of death was drowning, there were no other injuries.

‘We don’t actually know how it came about. I don’t understand how somebody can be released on bail for double manslaughter. How does that work?’

Rachael Griffin, senior coroner for Dorset, added: ‘I understand there is an ongoing police investigation. Despite that, I have already submitted the appropriate paperwork and released both Joe’s and Sunnah’s bodies for the purposes of their funerals.

‘It’s very important people do not speculate on the circumstances surrounding Joe and Sunnah’s deaths and allow the police investigation to proceed, which will allow my investigation to proceed.

‘I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere condolences to Joe and Sunnah’s families, my thoughts are very much with them at this difficult time following this tragedy.

‘My thoughts are also with those who attended or witnessed the traumatic events.’

She added: ‘I wish to take this opportunity to remind all those who enter the sea or open water to be aware of the powers of the water and the risks of swimming in open water.

‘It’s important they are aware of how to respond when problems arise and urge people to follow guidance from public agencies such as the RNLI.’

Ms Griffin adjourned the hearing until a pre-inquest review to be held on September 18.

Neither Joe’s nor Sunnah’s families were present at the short hearing.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has expressed concern about a lack of clarity from local police officers about the incident, which he said had led to ‘wild speculation on social media’.

‘We do need to understand, learn lessons from this, provide clarity early on, just so people can have an assurance of mind as to what roughly happened,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The Bournemouth East MP said: ‘Certainly anybody would not want to impede or prejudice the investigation.

‘But if the absence of any comprehensive statement becomes standard, I can see who, speaking on a wider picture and security level, those who wish us harm could leverage the void by misleading messaging.’

A second air ambulance takes off from the beach after the half-term tragedy

One man was pulled from the water and was given CPR on the beach by lifeguards before being taken away by air ambulance 

But David Sidwick, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Dorset, defended the police’s handling of the ‘complex’ case.

Dorset Police has said that the beach was extremely busy but that neither of the deceased young people or anyone else pulled from the sea at the time of the incident was involved in any collision or contact with any vessel in the water.

A man in his 40s, who was ‘on the water’ at the time, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, and was released under investigation on Thursday.

READ MORE HERE:  Heartbreaking picture shows trainee chef, 17, killed in Bournemouth beach tragedy mastering his craft as teachers pay tribute to ‘exceptional student’ 

The Dorset Belle sightseeing boat was impounded by Dorset Police after the incident.

Insiders had suggested the ‘sudden riptide’ that caused the children’s deaths, as reported in court, could have been exacerbated by the boat.

A source told The Sun previously: ‘They were on a sandbar to the east of the pier when the Dorset Belle came moored alongside the pier.’

The source claimed ‘it created a riptide which’ apparently ‘deluged everyone on the sandbar and effectively forced them further out to sea’.

A riptide is a strong current running out to sea which can quickly drag bathers away from shorelines. While boats themselves cannot create a riptide, they can make it worse by creating a strong wave that adds more pull to the current.

Ms Muller confirmed reports of a sudden riptide in the sea at the time of the tragedy.

She said in relation to Joe: ‘Emergency services were contacted by members of the public following reports that swimmers had come into difficulty in the water following the suggestion they had been caught in a riptide.’

Of Joe, she said:  ‘He was transferred to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital and despite ongoing treatment he was confirmed dead at the hospital.’

She added of Sunnah: ‘She was a school child at the time of her death. The brief circumstances surrounding her death are that emergency services were contacted by members of the public following reports that swimmers had come into difficulty in the water following suggestions they had been caught in a riptide.

‘She was treated by paramedics at the scene and transferred to Poole General Hospital. She was confirmed deceased at the hospital.’

The devastated family of Joe previously described him as a ‘wonderful son and brother’ and said they were ‘incredibly proud of the fabulous young man he was’.

They described the 17-year-old trainee chef as ‘kind, generous, loving, caring, hardworking and funny’.

Sunnah’s mum described her daughter as ‘so well loved and well liked’.

She said: ‘No parent should ever have to go through what her dad and I are going through.’

Dorset Police are investigating the weather, wind conditions and state of the water at the time of the tragedy.

They said that the pleasure boat that was in the area at the time was just one of several lines of inquiry they were exploring.

Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Corrigan said: ‘We continue to keep an open mind around the circumstances that have led to the tragic death of two young people in the water off the beach.

‘Our thoughts remain with the families of those young people.

‘As with any investigation of this nature, we have to look at all factors connected to the state of the water.

‘One of those lines of enquiry has involved the pleasure boat, which was in the area at the time of the incident.

‘These enquiries also include examining wind, other weather and general coastal conditions at the time.

‘I would ask that the police investigation is allowed to continue without further unhelpful speculation around circumstances of the incident, and that there is respect for the families of those who have died so tragically.’

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