TWO British doctors have drowned off the coast of Tenerife after apparently trying to save two children from a wave that washed them out to sea.
Uma Ramalingam, 42, and her relative Barathi Ruvikumar, 40, were pronounced dead after the tragic incident off the coast of the resort of Playa Paraiso on Sunday.
A third woman, 38, survived along with the two children, aged ten and 14, after being pulled out of the water by rescuers.
The women were both mothers. It is not yet clear whether the children they attempted to save were their own or part of their group.
The accident came as tens of thousands of British families prepare to jet off to the Canary Islands for the Easter break.
Emergency services rushed to the beach on Sunday afternoon when the group were spotted in difficulty off the shore.
An emergency helicopter was scrambled and members of the crew were winched down from the aircraft in order to pull one of the women from the water.
Paramedics tried to resuscitate the doctors, who had gone into cardiac arrest, but they were pronounced dead at the scene.
Eyewitness Adam Cramer said he had just checked into his hotel when he heard shouts from outside and people said children were in trouble in the sea.
He said he saw a girl struggling in the water as the waves pounded against sharp volcanic rock.
“I managed to get into the water and pull her away from the rocks,” Mr Cramer told the BBC last night.
“The waves were just throwing her and me against the rocks. She was in a terrible state. I spoke to her and she calmed down.
“We started a long swim with her on my back until we got to somewhere where it was just that bit safer and I was able to get her out of the water. She told me I saved her life.”
Mr Cramer said that it was unclear whether the two doctors had been swept into the water at the same time as the children, or had dived in to try to rescue them.
An emergency services spokeswoman confirmed that the surviving woman was treated for water in the lungs.
The first child, ten, had low blood sugar and hypothermia after being rescued.
The second child, 14, was treated at the scene for some mild bruising, thought to have been caused by rocks at the water’s edge.
Although weather conditions were said to be good, the wave that carried all five people away was strong enough to distance them from the shore within moments.
Colleagues last night paid tribute to Mrs Ramalingam, from Altrincham, Cheshire, and Dr Ravikumar, a partner at the Heath Surgery, Bracebridge Heath, in Lincoln.
Dr Ravikumar, a mother-of-two, was described as “a hard-working and dedicated GP” who “always worked in the best interests of patients”.
A statement on her surgery’s website said: “During her short time with the practice she was passionate about making a difference to healthcare in Lincolnshire and specialised in working with looked-after children.
“Dr Ravikumar will be sorely missed and leaves behind a husband and two children.”
A former colleague of Mrs Ramalingam, who worked as a consultant obstetrician at the women and children’s unit, at the Royal Oldham Hospital in Greater Manchester, paid tribute to the “fantastic doctor”. Olubusola Amu, consultant and clinical director of women and children’s services at the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “She was a fantastic doctor who brought a lot of hope to the high-risk women attending the women and children’s unit at the Royal Oldham Hospital.
“This is a terrible shock to everyone who knew Uma. Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time. She will be sorely missed.”
A spokeswoman from the Spanish law enforcement agency, the Guardia Civil, said yesterday: “It appears that the two women were dragged into the sea by a wave yesterday at around 6pm in Playa Paraiso, Adeje. We can confirm that both were British and both were relatives, although we are not certain how they were related at the moment.”
Authorities confirmed that an investigation would now be conducted into the tragedy.