The grieving father of two brothers who died in Sussex on the hottest day of the year last week, along with three of their friends, has said the men may have lived if lifeguards had been on patrol
at the beach.
Arumukam Saththiyanathan questioned why no safety measures had been brought in following the death of a 19-year-old man on the same beach in July.
He said: “I brought my children from Sri Lanka because it is not safe back there. But there were no lifeguards on the beach where they died. If there had been, my sons would have at least had a
fighting chance of survival.”
The tragedy unfolded in Camber Sands where the group, who were all of Sri Lankan descent, travelled from south-east London last Wednesday (24). It is believed they got into difficulties during a
game of football on a sandbar where they are thought to have become cut off by a strong tide.
The men were named as Nitharsan Ravi, 22; Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23; brothers Kobikanthan, 22, and Kenigan Nathan, 19; and Kurushanth Srithavarajah, 27.
The group travelled to the coast in Ravi’s car for the day trip. His brother Ajirthan said: “It has been a very hard time for us and especially for the parents of the other four victims, because they treat us the same way as their kids – that’s how it works between us.”
He said his brother – a University of Brighton aeronautical engineering student – was a “supportive” and “very talented” man who would be missed by many.
Ravi’s younger sister Mayura, 17, said her brother had always been very protective of her, adding: “I want him back because it just feels like a dream. It doesn’t feel real.”
Charles Bosco, who attended Tamil school with Ravi when they were both children, told Eastern Eye: “We were family friends. He was a nice guy, he was a quiet guy. Whenever I would see him he
would come over and talk to me. They are a really nice family. When my mum told me, I was like ‘what, no way.’ I was in shock really. He was one of the good guys in life, always positive.”
Bosco said Ravi’s family were preparing for the funeral which would take place on Sunday (4).
Keen footballer and cricketer Kurushanth Srithavarajah, 26, known as ‘Kuru’ to his friends, worked in a Tesco Express for the past six years and studied at Newham University Centre. He
would have turned 27 two days later.
Kenigan ‘Ken’ Nathan, from Slade Green, was the youngest victim. He was a former Bexleyheath Academy student.
Ajirthan, 19, said police visited the family home at 11pm last Wednesday as his brother’s Golf GTI was one of the only vehicles left in the car park.
“They were assuming the five passengers of the car were the five people they found,” he said. “We were distraught, we were so upset. It took a while for the police to verify the exact people. Then,
about four hours later, they confirmed it was my brother and his four friends.”
He said the emergency services had told the family that Ken and Sriskantharasa had got into difficulty first, getting trapped in quicksand or mud beneath the water. Then his brother, Kobi Nathan and Kuru had tried to rescue them.
“Ken and Indu got stuck underneath the water,” he said. “The three boys tried to save them. They went underwater to try to save them.”
However, their attempts failed and Kuru was brought out first and declared dead straight away, he revealed.
“My bro and Kobi had heartbeats and managed to survive for a few minutes, but after first aid they couldn’t recover.”
Both died within 15 minutes after being pulled from the water, he said.
The bodies of Ken Nathan and Sriskantharasa were discovered later that evening, he said, adding that he thought they had got their legs caught in the “slippery mud” and sand on the sea bottom.
He added his brother had known the other four since they were five years old. “My brother knew Kuru through sport. They played football and cricket together. He had been friends with Kobi
since secondary school. They were very close. They also went to university together.
“Kobi and Ken’s parents have lost both their children. I’m devastated for everyone. I knew all the men. They were good innocent people who have lost their lives. They had just gone down for
a day at the beach, like normal people. And unfortunately this happened.”
Members of the public and the emergency services tried to save the men when the first alert came in just after 2.10pm.
Rescuer Deven Small said: “I walked over to the scene and I could see a few people holding someone but his head kept on going in and out of the water.
“I ran in and helped to carry him in. Adrenaline kicks in. I didn’t want to, you’re talking about someone’s life on the line.
“It’s not the nicest thing to see in the world, to see someone die in front of you.”
Almost 8,000 supporters have signed an online petition calling for lifeguards at Camber Sands.
It states: “Camber Sands gets unbelievably busy during summer time. They have beach patrol but no lifeguards … it could save lives.”
A Rother District Council spokesman said: “Our beach patrols are on site throughout the summer and are able to advise people of potential dangers, reunite lost children and deal with any incidents
on the beach.
The police and crime commissioner for Sussex, Katy Bourne, said: “We do need to get together to see if further improvements need to be made [to safety at the beach].
“We need to find the best answer. I don’t know if lifeguards are the answer.”
In July, 19-year-old Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz was one of three men who got into trouble while swimming at the beach. The other two, who were not connected to him, were a man aged 35
and his 17-year-old son.
A major search and rescue mission, which included a coastguard helicopter, was launched last Sunday (28) on Camber Sands after a pair of flipflops was found on the beach, near where a
woman had been seen diving into the sea, but she was not seen coming out of the water. The search was later called off after the swimmer was found.
A spokeswoman for the coastguard service said the individual had been tracked down, having left the beach, and was safe and well.