Ian Payne 4am - 7am
'Angel' girl, 12, who died after incident off Bournemouth beach named as hundreds pay respects at funeral
3 June 2023, 10:33 | Updated: 4 June 2023, 07:42
The death of a 12-year-old girl who passed away after getting into trouble in the sea off Bournemouth beach has been named as Sunnah Khan.
Listen to this article
Sunnah, who was from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, died in hospital after an incident in the sea off Bournemouth beach on Wednesday afternoon. A boy, aged 17, also died in hospital under similar circumstances. The two did not know each other.
The circumstances of the two teenagers' deaths remain unclear. Eight other people were treated by paramedics at the scene.
Sunnah's family paid tribute to her as "an absolute force of nature" adding that she was "liked by all and loved by so many".
"She will be so sorely missed by her parents, siblings and friends," they said.
"There are no words to describe the hole she has left in all of our hearts but we will remember her every day for the rest of our lives."
Mohammed Rafiq, 65, a trustee at the Wycombe Islamic Mission and Mosque, said: "What happened is tragic for the family. They are very hard-working and well respected here, this is a close-knit community.
“There were hundreds of people who came to the funeral, the queue was overflowing," he told the Sun.
Sunnah's friends joined in the tributes on social media.
One friend said: "You were too young to be taken from this world. My best friend and my reason to wake up every day."
Another said: "She was such an amazing person and her smile lit up a room. It was far too early for our angel to gain her wings.”
It comes as the head of Britain's top lifeguarding charity warned that sea swimmers must take care even in shallow water.
Lee Heard, charity director at the Royal Life Saving Society, told LBC: "Although it is shallow, even if you're standing in a couple of foot worth of water, even if it's only to your knees, you will feel the water moving you around.
"So there's a very light chance that underneath that pier, if there's a channel that's pushing you back out to see, it's going to push you against one of the piers, one of the groins."
Officers dismissed suggestions that a boat struck swimmers, saying today that "early investigation indicates that there was no physical contact between a vessel and any swimmers at the time of the incident".
Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Corrigan said: "Our thoughts remain very much with the loved ones of the two young people at this horrendous time and we are doing all we can to support their families.
"We are continuing with our investigation, which is still at the early stages, and would ask people not to speculate about the circumstances surrounding the incident to both protect our enquiries and out of respect for the victims' families.
Police rule out contact between swimmers and vessel off Bournemouth beach
Police are investigating the Dorset Belle, a pleasure boat, for potential links to their deaths. A man in his 40s - who was "on the water" at the time of the incident - was arrested and has since been released under investigation while enquiries continue, officers said.
The Dorset Belle, which can carry up to 80 guests, made several circuits in the waters off Bournemouth Pier on Wednesday, according to online tracker MarineTraffic, including around the time of the incident.
On Friday night the 49-year-old sea-going passenger boat Dorset Belle remained at anchor at Cobb's Quay, Poole Harbour, guarded by a police van.
Officials were seen on the boat on Friday continuing investigations into the vessel and any role it may have had in the incident.
A spokesman for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council earlier told the PA news agency: "We do not license this boat."
The authority's website says: "Any person who wishes to be in charge or navigate a pleasure boat/vessel, including Poole Harbour and Christchurch Harbour, for the purpose of letting it out for hire to members of the public, or to be used for carrying passengers for hire, must obtain a licence from us."
A council spokeswoman added: "Concerning the Dorset Belle, the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) is responsible for issuing licences to operate vessels of this size and capacity.
"BCP Council does not issue licences for vessels of this nature to operate in open water.
"We apologise and acknowledge that the website doesn't make this clear."
Speaking at a press conference in Bournemouth, Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Farrell also said there was no suggestion that people had been jumping into the sea from the pier or that jet skis were involved.
Boy and girl die following incident off Bournemouth beach
"We are working with partner agencies to understand what has caused the tragedy," the force said in a statement.
"We are investigating the circumstances that caused a number of swimmers to get into difficulty.
"Further information will be released as the investigation progresses."