Cornwall beach tragedy: Patients and colleagues pay tribute to surgeon Stuart Calder

Rescuers said he died attempting to save teenage surfers in difficulty

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The Independent Online

A 52-year-old surgeon who died trying to save a group of teenage surfers has been hailed as a “hero”.

Stuart Calder, from Leeds, was one of three adults who died in the tragedy at Mawgan Porth beach in Cornwall on Sunday.

A 44-year-old man from St Austell and a 42-year-old woman, also from St Austell, have not been named.

The four teenage boys, two aged 18, one 16 and one 15, who were believed to be the first to get into trouble in the water made it to the shore unharmed.

Steve Instance, lifeguard manager for the South West, said: “There was a group of people who were surfing. From the reports we have, one of the people who drowned may have gone in to try to help the others.

“We believe that two of the casualties are local, in their 40s, and the third is a gentleman in his 50s from outside the area (Dr Calder).

“We believe that the group of children may have been the first to get into difficulty.”

Coastguards at the scene of the disaster

The relationship between the children and the people who died was not yet clear, he added.

Mr Calder, an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in knee conditions, worked at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and The Yorkshire Knee Clinic.

The father-of-four is understood to have been on a family holiday with his wife and his two sons at the time of the tragedy.

His patients and colleagues paid tribute online, with a tweet from the Orthopaedic Network saying his death was “a massive blow for orthopaedics”.

A former patient of his wrote: “Shocked to hear of death of Stuart Calder. Reconstructed both my knees and was a credit to his profession.”

Another woman described Mr Calder as “one of the best consultants I've ever worked with” and a “hero”.

Mr Calder's mother, Gillian Calder, told the Times: “My heart is broken, that's all I can say.”

Police and coastguards at Mawgan Porth beach near Newquay, Cornwall

Eric Hanson, a family friend of Mr Calder's said he would not be surprised if he had gone in the sea to help the struggling teenagers.

He told the Daily Mail: “It's absolutely characteristic of him to put himself in danger to save others, especially children.”

Mr Calder was pulled from the water after possibly being caught in a rip current with the six others and was later pronounced dead.

An off-duty lifeguard was among the onlookers who tried to help the him as the tragedy unfolded shortly after 1pm on Sunday.

Brendon Prince, a lifeguard from Torbay in Devon, told the BBC he believed Mr Calder had been in the water with his son and his wife had been on the beach.

“We ran to the first person and dragged them out of the water with one or two other people helping,” he said.

“The gentleman was a 52-year-old male. Obviously, we sent for a defibrillator and paramedics as soon as we could.

“We then did CPR on the male for 20 minutes before the emergency services arrived.”

Mawgan Porth beach is popular with tourists and locals

The three casualties, who were unconscious, were airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital but later died.

The RNLI will review the lifeguard policy at the beach, which was not being monitored at the time of the accident.

Lifeguards are on duty at Mawgan Porth beach from March to September, the RNLI confirmed, but there are "clear signs" at the beach indicating the lack of cover for beachgoers.

A spokesperson for the RNLI said lifeboats are "on call 24/7" can launch within 10 minutes all year round.

"That risk assessment is decided by taking into account the number of users, the type of users, the topography of the area - how the waves fall there - and the proximity of other rescue services,” she added.

“Every season an assessment is carried out to see what lifeguards there should be on every beach. I am sure we will take into account visitor numbers at Mawgan Porth during half-term and, once we know what happened, it will form part of the review into whether we need to extend lifeguard cover there.”

Lifeboat operations manager Gareth Horner described conditions at the beach as “dangerous”.

“Conditions (there) are not really very good for surfing and bodyboarding,” he told ITV News. “Mawgan Porth is a dangerous beach.”

Additional reporting by PA