British tourist drowns trying to ford river on horseback

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A British tourist has drowned in South Africa while attempting to cross a river on horseback.

Claire Jackson, 36, from London, died on Friday night after a huge wave engulfed her and two companions as they crossed the Nxaxo River, close to Wavecrest on the Transkei Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape Province.

South African Police Superintendent Gcinikaya Taleni told the Press Association: "It seems that there was a large wave and the tide sucked them inside the sea.

"Two of the women managed to escape but the third woman, Claire Jackson, who was from London, drowned.

"We think the girls who escaped went to a nearby hotel, the Wavecrest and they called the police. Mrs Jackson's body was recovered straightaway."

The other two women were named as Julie Gower, from South Africa and Lindsey Tibbs, from Britain.

Mrs Gower's husband Clint told the South African Press Association how the women were swept away.

He said: "They were riding horses along the beach. They had to cross a river to get back to the hotel and that's when the incident happened.

"They were caught in a channel in the river and washed out to sea."

Mr Gower said the other two women were traumatised but unharmed.

Supt Taleni said Mrs Jackson's horse had survived, but the other two horses were still missing.

"We are still looking for the other two horses. They are still at large. We are not sure whether they drowned or ran off," he said.

"The horses were provided by Julie Gower, we think she organised the trip."

A statement from the National Sea Rescue Institute in South Africa said police and ambulance and rescue services were alerted at around 6.05pm local time to reports of a drowning in progress at the Nxaxo river mouth.

Sea Rescue spokesman Craig Lambinon said: "A local, Conrad Winterbach, launched a river boat to attempt to assist a female UK citizen that was washed away in the Nxaxo river mouth while allegedly attempting to cross the river on a horse. She was accompanied by her female friend, also a UK citizen and a female proprietor of a horse trail business, both also riding horses at the time."

A South African Air Force 43 Squadron helicopter was placed on alert to assist at first light.

Mr Winterbach was unable to negotiate the strong currents, which had four to five metre swells. But he did manage to pick up Mrs Jackson from rocks close to the shoreline.

Paramedics were called but she was pronounced dead at the scene. An inquest has been opened by South African police.

The statement added the two British women had been holidaying in the country for the past week.

According to a website, Mr and Mrs Gower run a company called Wild Coast Horse Trails offering horseback beach riding holidays.

A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed the drowned woman's name as Claire Jackson.

He said: "Her family has been informed and we believe her husband is flying out to South Africa today. We cannot confirm any details of the incident at the moment."