'Tombstoning' man killed after jumping off pier

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The Independent Online

The craze for "tombstoning" - jumping into water from cliffs or buildings - claimed its second life in less than a month this weekend when a man leapt into the sea from an Essex pier.

The man, in his forties, was one of a group of five men who jumped from the end of the pier at Clacton-on-Sea on Saturday evening. He and a second man got into trouble after a strong tide swept them out to sea.

Both men were found lying face down in the water 600ft from shore by a lifeboat crew which was called to the incident. They were taken to hospital by a rescue helicopter.

The second man was last night critically ill in intensive care. His friend died despite intensive resuscitation efforts by paramedics.

The death is the second associated with tombstoning, so named because of the high level of fatalities and serious injuries, in three weeks. Delwyn Jones, a father of six from south Wales, died in the early hours of Fathers' Day on 17 June when he jumped 30ft into the sea at high tide near Torbay in Devon.

The so-called extreme sport, described by one coastguard as the equivalent of jumping from a skyscraper onto a wet flannel, has grown in popularity around the British coast. Since 2005, there have been four deaths and at least eight serious injuries, including an Australian professional surfer who shattered both legs after misjudging the depth of the water. In Devon and Cornwall, emergency services deal with an average of one cliff-jumping rescue a week in the summer.

Witnesses said it appeared the latest death came after after the five men had been drinking in a pub near Clacton pier, before they set foot on the 1,000ft long walkway at about 6.30pm. Ignoring the warnings of a security guard, the group jumped from a height of 30ft into the sea shortly after high tide.

Alan Lane, 60, a fisherman, said that the men had been pulled under the pier by a rip tide and had been swept out to sea.

He added: "They jumped from where it says 'no jumping'. If it had been a low tide they would have been stuck in clay. Three of them swam back to shore but two shot under the pier. There's a strong rip tide - it picks up really fast. We get so many people with the combination of sun and cheap booze doing stupid things."

Police said the depth of the water would have been no more than 12ft, and the two men were unconscious when they were taken out of the water.

A post mortem examination is due to be held today.

Anthony Mayhew of the Thames Coastguard, which co-ordinated yesterday's rescue, said: "Some people, of all ages, are still not getting the message: jumping from any cliff or structure into water is dangerous."