Girl, 5, dies after being swept off mudflats

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A five-year-old girl died last night after she was caught by the tide on mudflats.

A five-year-old girl died last night after she was caught by the tide on mudflats.

The girl and her guardian, who is her mother's partner, had been walking on flats exposed at low tide at Brean beach, near Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset.

She was pulled out into the Bristol Channel by strong tides at about 2pm. The man ran out to save her but became trapped on the mudflats, which acted like quicksand. The pair were visiting from Worcestershire and were with two other children and a woman.

Coastguards at Swansea were alerted by a beach warden after he saw them more than a mile from the shore. A dramatic air rescue was staged by coastguards to save the girl. Members of the Burnham Coastguard mud rescue team were first to arrive and received support from a helicopter from RAF Chivenor and a local lifeboat.

The man was swiftly located and winched to safety but crews were initially unable to find the girl. A rescue crew eventually spotted her and she was airlifted by a RAF Coastguard helicopter and taken to Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare.

She was suffering from hypothermia and put in intensive care immediately. Police said that she died shortly after 7pm last night.

An RAF spokesman said the rescue team reached the beach 45 minutes after receiving the distress call. He said: "We initially searched for the girl as she was the priority, but we saw the man who was up to his thighs in mud. He was pointing at the sea for the girl. The condition of the sea was like thick coffee with all the mud but we managed to spot her after three or four minutes."

James Instance, the watch manager for the Swansea coastguard, said the girl was "face down in the sea" by the time they reached her. She was a mile-and-a-half out on the mudflats, which looked like "thick slurry when the tide had come in", he said. He said he believed the girl's two siblings had been playing on the mud flats before the incident but did not need to be rescued.

A spokeswoman at Weston General Hospital said attempts to resuscitate the girl had lasted three hours. Some of her family have yet to be informed of her death. Inspector Mike Anderson, of Avon and Somerset Police, confirmed that the man was "doing well" in hospital. He appealed for any witnesses to contact police.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman said that rescuers had been forced to use specialist equipment to get the pair out. She advised people to find out more about the area they intended to visit from the local coastguard. "People can get caught out because they do not realise the dangers," she said. "It may look safe but you have to think of the risks."

A holiday-maker Tristan Evans, 28, said: "We knew about the tides but never realised quite how dangerous they were. We saw the helicopter. It was really a long way out so she must have been swept out some distance."

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