Freak wave claims mother and children

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The Independent Online

A woman and her 11-year-old son died after they were swept out to sea by a freak wave at the North Yorkshire resort of Scarborough. Rescue workers were continuing to search for the woman's daughter, aged 13, but with freezing sea temperatures, hopes of finding her alive were fading late last night.

A woman and her 11-year-old son died after they were swept out to sea by a freak wave at the North Yorkshire resort of Scarborough. Rescue workers were continuing to search for the woman's daughter, aged 13, but with freezing sea temperatures, hopes of finding her alive were fading late last night.

A major air and sea search began just after 4pm yesterday when four members of the same family were swept from the promenade of the town's North Bay. A coastguard helicopter recovered the boy and his mother, 33, from the water half an hour later. They were taken to Scarborough Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.

Drew Mahood, the Humber Coastguard watch manager, said: "The search is still on-going for the 13-year-old female, but now with darkness fallen, it makes it extremely difficult. Our sympathies go out to the family and friends at this tragic time."

Witness reports suggested that, after the children were dragged into the sea, their mother and her partner went into the water in an effort to rescue them but got into trouble themselves.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: "It would appear the two youngsters were at the water's edge and somehow got into some difficulty. It appears the mother has gone in to assist and has got into difficulty herself."

The man managed to get ashore and was not injured, as was an eight-year-old boy. A surfer who tried to rescue the children was also treated in hospital. A coastguard spokes-man said he could not confirm suggestions the children were "wave-dodging" on the slipway when waves of up to 15ft swept them away. But he added: "I can't see a reason for them being on the sea slipway in the conditions at the time. We would advise all members of the public to steer clear of the slipways. The tide was coming in and it was not a place to be."

He described the conditions at sea as "horrendous", and said RAF helicopters from two bases helped in the search as well as police, fire crews, coastguard, lifeboat and members of the public. Rescuers had to wait for the tide to recede before resuming the search for the teenager.

Police said the sea was not particularly rough but it was extremely cold at this time of year. The wide, horseshoe-shaped sands of Scarborough's North Bay are popular with families and dog-walkers when the tide is out, but the location can be treacherous at high tide. The last fatality in the bay was a woman who had gone in to rescue her dog in 1992.

A man, 45, and his 13-year-old daughter were also missing last night after falling from a dinghy while sailing on Loch Lomond in Scotland. Another daughter, aged 15, raised the alarm after the rigid inflatable boat capsized at Milarrochy Bay yesterday afternoon. She was found in the dinghy by two anglers, and said her father and sister had fallen overboard.

A police spokesman told BBC Scotland's Reporting Scotland: "An older daughter who was still on board the boat managed to bring the boat to a halt and raised the alarm. She actually jumped in the water in an attempt to try to save her sister and her father and managed to clamber back on the boat. She's been taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary. She's obviously suffering from the effects of the cold water."

Rescue helicopters scoured the last known location of the pair last night while coastguards searched the shoreline. Central Scotland police underwater units were also involved. Emergency services were due to resume their search at first light this morning, but a spokesman said : "There are obvious concerns given the temperature of the water in Loch Lomond."

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