Stuart Calder: Father drowned trying to save sons in Cornwall surfing incident, inquest hears

Mr Calder died alongside Rachel Dunn and Kevin Reynolds in the tragedy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A respected knee surgeon drowned as he tried to rescue his sons during a surfing incident in Cornwall, an inquest heard.

Stuart Calder, 52, got caught in a powerful rip current and was dragged out to sea as he attempted to save his sons Hugo and Milo who were trying to help two teenage brothers in difficulty among the strong waves.

Mr Calder, who worked at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, drowned alongside Rachel Dunn, 42, and her partner Kevin Reynolds, 44, in last October's tragedy at Mawgan Porth beach in Newquay, Cornwall.

The orthopaedic surgeon had gone into the sea to help his sons who were trying to assist teenage brothers Gethin and William Robson who had got into difficulty while swimming.

In total there were seven people involved in the rescue - victims Mr Calder, Mr Reynolds and Ms Dunn - as well as Mr Calder's sons and the Robson brothers.

Cornwall Coroner's Court heard that members of the public who were on the beach - many on holiday as it was the school half-term - risked their lives to go into the water to help those in trouble.

But some experienced surfers told the hearing that the sea current was too strong that day and the water should have been closed off.

Lifeguards were not patrolling the beach when the incident took place in October, as they only do so between March and September.

The RNLI, coastguard, police, ambulance service, air ambulance and a Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter were all involved in the rescue.

Mr Calder and Ms Dunn were rescued by people on the beach while Mr Reynolds was pulled from the sea by a helicopter crew. People on the beach carried out CPR on Mr Calder and Ms Dunn until paramedics arrived.

All three were unconscious and were airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske but later pronounced dead. Post-mortem examinations found all three had drowned.

Holidaymaker Brendan Prince, an experienced lifeguard and surfer, told the hearing how he refused to go into the sea that day because he felt it was too dangerous.

He described seeing about a dozen people in the water but noted there were "no serious surfers" in the sea or any lifeguards on duty.

"If you grow up knowing these conditions they are blindingly obvious," he said. "But if you don't you can be taken by them."

Asked by Cornwall coroner Emma Carlyon about lifeguard cover, Mr Prince replied: "If there was a lifeguard service on duty they would not have allowed people into the water. I personally feel on that day the beach would have been red flagged."

Mr Prince praised the emergency services for their actions.

Daniel Hatfield, a volunteer coastguard who was on duty on the day, agreed with Mr Prince's assessment of the sea conditions.

"The conditions were not favourable to surfing and possibly lifeguards would have red flagged the beach," he said.

Commenting on the lack of lifeguard cover during a school half-term holiday, Mr Hatfield said: "I think that is something you would have to ask the RNLI. I am not aware of their resources."

Press Association