Witnesses to beach drownings tell of frantic rescue effort

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The Independent Online

Witnesses yesterday described the dramatic and desperate attempts to save three British holidaymakers who drowned off a beach in the Algarve.

Bob and Debbie Fry died trying to rescue their two children at Praia do Tonel, near Sagres. Their friend Barbara Jean Dinsmore, who went into the sea after them, also drowned.

Jame Revaielta, 26, was one of the first on the scene and helped to drag the surviving adults from the water on Monday afternoon. He said he suspected the tide was becoming dangerous. "I told my girlfriend, 'They may be in trouble – that's not a place for playing'," he said. "Suddenly the kids were yelling for help, so two adults went into the sea. The mother held on to one kid arms and then another wave came and pushed the child out again. It pushed them all into the sea."

A second group of six or seven adults then entered the water to help with the rescue, Mr Revaielta added.

"They went to help the adults but they were lost," he said. "I helped to drag a large man out, and he was the last to come out alive."

Mr and Mrs Fry had waded into the water to try to save their son George, nine, and daughter Rosie, 11, after they were swept away while playing with five other children. Mr Fry, a 52-year-old architect, and his wife, 48, from Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, were dragged out to sea.

Mrs Dinsmore, 43, who was on holiday with the Fry family with husband Roy and their children Lydia, 11, and 10-year-old Alex, saw her friends swept away and dived in to try to help – but she too was overcome.

Mr Dinsmore and his children survived, as did another friend, Dean Plumb, 40, whose family were also staying with the group. A German father died of a heart attack after saving his child. All of the youngsters survived with minor injuries.

Portuguese police may investigate whether the surviving parents were negligent, after it emerged yesterday that the children ignored warnings from locals to stay out of the dangerous waters around a large rock known as Leixa.

Daniel Salvaterra, who runs a surf school on the beach, said he warned the children about the notorious whirlpools which form around the rock, and they left the water. "Fifteen minutes later, I looked out and saw the children had gone back and were in trouble," he said. "Their parents were running to help them."

It was unclear whether his warnings had been passed on to the parents. Further questions were being asked about why the local council had closed the beach for the winter on 3 September but left no lifeguards on duty.

But Pedro Pereira, of the maritime police, said: "At the entry to the beach there is a sign to warn of this fact."