TWO men and a woman have died in a surfing tragedy at a coastal beauty spot.
Four children and three adults got into difficulty off Mawgan Porth Beach, Newquay, in Cornwall yesterday afternoon.
Coastguards received “multiple 999 calls” from people at about 1:15pm after it was thought the group got caught up in a “rip tide”.
Four of them, all children, were located on shore, but three adults who were airlifted to hospital later died.
Police said last night that the woman and one of the men who died were both in their 40s and from Cornwall.
The second man was in his 50s and was from outside the police force’s area. A spokesman said his family has been contacted.
Inspector Dave Meredith, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said the four survivors had “managed to get out of the sea”.
It also emerged that one of the male casualties may have entered the sea to help those in trouble.
Gareth Horner, Newquay RNLI’s lifeboat operations manager, said: “We don’t know the exact circumstances or the ability of the people that were rescued today.
“My understanding is that they were in two groups and that one of the casualties actually entered the sea to assist other people who were in trouble.”
Ian Guy, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s National Maritime Operations Centre, said: “The surf there was quite high I’m told, in excess of 6ft.”
He said rip currents were “to be expected around Cornwall, especially at this time of year”.
A spokeswoman for the South Western Ambulance Service said they took the call about reports that seven people had been caught in a “rip tide” at Mawgan Porth beach and sent three helicopters, one ambulance and a rapid response vehicle.
She said: “Four patients were what we describe as walking wounded. They were taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital. Three patients were sadly deceased.”
A rip current, sometimes referred to as a rip tide, is a strong, localised and narrow current of water. It moves directly away from the shore and cuts through the lines of breaking waves.
Peter Abell, owner of the Kingsurf surf school at Mawgan Porth – which was not involved in the incident – was on his lunch break when the incident took place, and described the tragedy as “really, really unlucky”.
He said parts of the beach are always safe and said beaches are always changing, adding: “You can never predict this.”
Asked about the surfing conditions, Mr Abell, 30, said it was “not as bad as it can be”, but said there were some currents that were “slightly more dangerous than usual”.
He added: “The waves were bigger, they were quite big. And it wasn’t the safest of days to be in the sea. But it wasn’t particularly dangerous. There were lots of safe places to be and they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mr Abell said he was annoyed that he was on his lunch break when the incident happened because he is always in the sea and could have tried to help.
He said if they had been “anywhere near them it would have been very easy to rescue them”.
He added: “Obviously we’re all gutted.”