Portugal drowning victims named as Lara Lewis and Brian O'Dwyer

 

A five-year-old girl and her grandfather who drowned off a Portuguese beach after they were swept into the sea were described today as part of a happy and loving family.

The bodies of Lara Lewis and Brian O'Dwyer, 66, were pulled from choppy waters by fishermen in the tourist resort of Nazare, around 60 miles north of Lisbon.

It is thought Lara was walking with her grandparents along a sandy beach when they were all pulled into the sea by strong waves.

Her grandmother was rescued off Salgado beach by local seamen and she was taken to hospital.

Her parents Philip Lewis, a professor at University College London, and Sian Lewis are believed to have been sunbathing in the picturesque fishing village when the incident happened at around 2pm yesterday.

Today, neighbours of the family in Hackney, east London, said they were shocked by the news and paid tribute to the family.

David Mason, a translator, said he had known Lara since she was a baby.

He said: "I remember them bringing her home in her dad's arms and they were such a happy family.

"She was a very happy girl who would always say 'hello Dave' when she saw me.

"This is terribly sad news and for a lot of people it's still sinking in.

"They were well-known across the community and a lot of people are very upset by the news."

Shutters were drawn across the windows of the home in Glenarm Road, where the family have lived for five years, and a man who answered the door said he was too upset to speak.

Mr Mason said Lara was due to start school nearby in September.

He said: "You expect young children to be almost invulnerable. She was so full of life.

"This is a close community and people will react in different ways. We just all wish it hadn't happened.

"We will all have to work out how to deal with it but anything they want or need as a family, we will do for them."

Pictures of the scene showed firefighters crouching down in the sand in the afternoon sunshine, about to move the victims. The body of the grandfather was covered in a blue sheet.

It is thought the emergency services attempted to revive Lara for nearly an hour.

According to English-language newspaper The Portugal News, Nazare Port Authority commander Albuquerque e Silva said: "The grandfather was already dead when he was hauled from the water.

"Emergency services attempted to resuscitate the child, but to no avail.

"The two victims, accompanied by the grandmother, went on a stroll away from the Salgado beach, which is under lifeguard surveillance, and it must have been during this period that they were knocked over and dragged in by the waves."

The Foreign Office said it was in touch with local authorities in the country.

A spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of the death of two British nationals in Portugal and we are in touch with the local authorities."

A spokesman for the Maritime Authority in Nazare said the part of the beach where the incident happened is widely known in the area to be hazardous.

He said: "The sea in that beach is very dangerous. The wave that swept them in was very big.

"The beach has information that tells you about that area where they were and it tells you there's no surveillance, no lifeguards, on that part of the beach. It's very far from where they are stationed."

He said two local fishermen brought the bodies back to the shore, where lifeguards were the first on the scene and attempted first aid on the beach.

The spokesman added that the deaths were "very unusual" for the area.

PA

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