'No swimming' signs 'ripped down by vandals' days before two teens drowned in nature reserve

The boy and girl, aged 15 and 16, died on Wednesday night

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The Independent Online

Newly erected "no swimming" signs at a broad where two teenagers drowned were vandalised just days earlier, a wildlife trust has confirmed.

The boy and girl, aged 15 and 16 and believed to be related, died on Wednesday night after getting into difficult in water as members of their family looked on at St Andrews Broad at the Thorpe Marshes Reserve on the outskirts of Norwich.

Brendan Joyce, chief executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust which runs the site, said new signs had been put up on Monday but were almost instantly ripped down in the latest in a spate of vandalism attacks.

He said: "We are all very shocked and saddened at Norfolk Wildlife Trust to learn of the tragic loss of life of two teenagers at our Thorpe Marshes Nature Reserve. Our thoughts are with family and friends.

"We are unclear as to exactly what took place that led to such very sad circumstances. We would not want to speculate, but rather await further information from the emergency services.

"We put up 'no swimming' signs around the former gravel pit, warning of the dangers of swimming in the area, but these are often vandalised and ripped down.

"New signs were erected as recently as Monday."

On Thursday only one sign could be seen at the entrance to the site, almost half a mile from where the pair are thought to have entered the water.

At the beach area near where they died, only one sign could be seen warning of dangerous algae.

Gordon Copp and his daughter Amy, 14, who is in the same class at Thorpe St Andrew High School as a relative of the pair who died, visited the site on Thursday.

Amy said: "This is a popular swimming spot - often kids from school will come down here and come back with wet hair.

"I've been worried about safety for a while and there isn't anything to stop people getting into the water."

Mr Copp, who lives nearby, allowed the family of the teenagers to sit in his garden as emergency services launched a major search to find the pair at about 4.50pm.

"They were screaming and wailing and seemed in a terrible state," he said.

"They seemed absolutely distraught and my heart goes out to them."

Chief Inspector Nathan Clark, from Norfolk Police, said nothing could be done to save the teenagers.

He added: "We were alerted to two people struggling in the water, there was a co-ordinated effort to locate them but unfortunately the two teenagers were found dead.

"We are very much keeping an open mind about what happened and are interviewing people at the scene, including family members.

"I would like to offer all my sympathies to them - I can't imagine anything more tragic than losing two teenage kids."

Chief fire officer Nigel Williams, from Norfolk Fire and Rescue, said: "We responded quickly to the call, with up to 40 officers on the scene, including our dive team and urban search and rescue team.

"Tragically there was nothing we could do and two young people have lost their lives whilst in open water.

"My heartfelt condolences, and those from every firefighter at the scene, go out to the family at this terribly sad time."

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, East of England Ambulance Service, search and rescue, the Coastguard and the police helicopter all helped with the search.

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