Urgent warning to take care in the sea after two teenagers die in Bournemouth, as cops continue to probe pleasure boat

3 June 2023, 07:54 | Updated: 3 June 2023, 08:03

The Dorset Belle has been impounded by police
The Dorset Belle has been impounded by police. Picture: Getty/Social Media

By Kit Heren

Sea swimmers and sunbathers must take care even in shallow water, the head of Britain's top lifeguarding charity has warned, after two teenagers died off Bournemouth beach.

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Officers continue to investigate the Dorset Belle, a pleasure boat that was seen in the area, after a boy, 17, from Southampton, and girl, 12, from Buckinghamshire, died in hospital after getting into difficulty in the sea off Bournemouth beach on Wednesday afternoon.

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, police have said.

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."

The circumstances of the two teenagers' deaths remain unclear. Officers have said the boy and girl were not related to each other. Eight other people were treated by paramedics at the scene.

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The Dorset Belle has been impounded
The Dorset Belle has been impounded. Picture: Getty

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

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."

Read more: Waves from 'vessel' may have caused deaths of girl, 12, and boy, 17 at Bournemouth beach

Read more: Sick onlookers filmed medics as they tried to revive Bournemouth victims - as police urge people not to share footage

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."