Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Tragedy of Camber Sands and the price of life.

I may be ill but I haven't lost the capacity to be angry and yesterday I was angry until my blood boiled.

Last August Bank Holiday, an horrific tragedy unfolded at Camber Sands, a popular beach on the south coast. Now, the inquest has reported and the investigation has exposed much more about the Conservative Council, The Coroners Office and its Officers than about the deaths themselves.

The South Coast has many beaches but most are stony - Camber is the only sandy beach within easy reach of London and many people visit on a good day.

Last August a group of five lads came down for a day of sunbathing and swimming;  Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18, known as Ken, his brother Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 22, known as Kobi, both from Erith, south-east London. Their three friends were Nitharsan Ravi, 22, from Plumstead; Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23, from Grays, Essex, and Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, from Welling.

The beach is huge and the sea rushes in quickly.

Amid all the other people in the water, it may not have been obvious but the lads got into trouble and the emergency services were eventually called.

They found three bodies.

Later after they had gone, a member of the public found two more bodies that had been missed.

All five were dead.

It was an appalling tragedy but it was the official responses that followed which made it far worse. For some reason, the police found it necessary to issue an extraordinary statement denying that the lads were illegal immigrants followed by a second statement that they were wearing "clothing that was appropriate for the beach".

Obviously, if they had been white, there would have been no suggestion that they were doing anything other than having a day out at the seaside.

What makes it worse is that only a month before, two other people drowned on the same beach; Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19 from Brazil, got into trouble in the sea and a courageous stranger Mohit Dupar, 36, from Hayes, west London, died trying to save him.

After that tragedy in July, there were calls to have lifeguards on the beach which were turned down by Rother District Council which is run by the Conservatives, on grounds of cost.

Robert Cass is employed by the Council as a 'Coastal Officer', to supervise the beach. He filled out an incident log after last July’s drownings where he stated:

“We are again faced with incidents of non-swimming persons of a certain culture that enter the water in great numbers with deadly results. The combination of a beach as shallow as Camber attracting predominantly non-British visitors has been an increasing issue over the last 10 years and the risks that these people create upon their lack of ability in being ‘tempted in’ to such a shallow bay are becoming unsustainable and unfair for us to deal with or carry the burden of responding to.”

The message is stark - the Council had no responsibility to protect people who came to the beach for the day because it was clearly their own fault if they got into trouble......and that was because they were "Non British".

I should point out that on a busy day, Camber Sands will often attract 25,000 visitors. Most of the Car Parks are run by Conservative Rother District Council and the rate for the day is £12. If you do the maths you will see that this is a lucrative source of income.

Anyway, because of the 'cost' of providing lifeguards, there were none on the beach on the August Bank Holiday and five young men died needlessly.

As if this was not bad enough, the Coroner and his officers made great play of testing the five dead boys for alcohol and drugs because, of course, the deaths were probably their own fault.

For the record ( and I shouldn't have to say any of this) none of the five had drink or drugs in their blood. All were able to swim - they were young men who were fit and well and played football and cricket in their spare time. All were as 'British' as you and I and all deserved to live out their hard working lives in safety and free from prejudice.

And what would the cost of providing lifeguards have been?

Now, after seven needless deaths, Rother District Council will pay out a grand total of £51,000 this year.

At £12 a day that is a mere 4,250 cars parked in the Council's beach Car Parks. Not even one Bank Holiday's worth of parking charges.

There are times when I am deeply ashamed of this country and the people who run things and this is one of them. But the shame should be on Conservative Rother District Council for their criminal negligence and on the Coroner for failing to apportion blame properly.

My condolences to the families and friends of all who died.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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