Three British parents have drowned along with a German national after they went to the rescue of children in difficulties off the coast of the Algarve, it was disclosed today.
Several adults, including the four who lost their lives, were understood to have dived into the sea off Sagres on the south west coast of Portugal yesterday afternoon to save children who had got into trouble.
The three children were reported to have suffered minor injuries after they were thrown back on to the beach, but four adults lost their lives.
Two children have been left without a father and a mother and two children have been left without a mother as a result of the tragedy, the Foreign Office confirmed today.
Three adults required hospital treatment and one of them, a father, remains in hospital but is reported to be out of danger.
The commander of the local maritime police, Pedro Pereira, revealed that the Tonel beach in the resort town of Sagres, where the tragedy occurred, was closed for the winter and signs warned bathers that there were no lifeguards on duty.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Yesterday afternoon at 1650 local time, three British and one German family are at the Tonel beach in Sagres, on a sunny and clear-sky day, when some of the children ran to the water near by a rock in the middle of the beach.
"Suddenly they called for help and their families' adults with some other people nearby ran to rescue them from the sea.
"There are some currents and some deep waters that caused them to get into distress.
"They asked for help and all the families that are with them, they ran to help them, also some people that were close by.
"Some parents did not find a way to rescue their sons and also to rescue themselves."
He added: "The final outcome of this tragic situation is four parents dead.
"Because summer season is concluded by September 3, the Tonel beach is closed and there is no life-saving personnel. Reinforcing this, at the entry to the beach there is a sign to warn of this fact.
"As the local commander for this rescue operation, as soon as the distress was known, the necessary staff have been directed to proceed to the beach, namely the medical emergency, life-saving boat, firefighting ambulance, the maritime police, the search and rescue air force marine helicopter, as well as local civil protection resources.
"For the families in mourning I wish to stress my sorrow and compassion. Life continues and despite difficult times to come, good luck to all their seven children that are well."
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said last night that the British ambassador in Portugal has been in touch with the civil governor, and the British consul in Portimao is travelling to the area.
Next of kin are being informed, and there are no further details at this time.Reuse content