Brave mum in 999 plea

BEACH heroine Karen Khangura last night relived her vain efforts to save a drowning man as other families on a packed Yarmouth beach looked on, assuming he was larking about.

BEACH heroine Karen Khangura last night relived her vain efforts to save a drowning man as other families on a packed Yarmouth beach looked on, assuming he was larking about.

Ahead of a weekend when thousands are expected to flock to Norfolk's seaside resorts, the mother of two implored beach goers to take it seriously if they see someone apparently struggling in the water.

“If people think someone is mucking about it does not matter. It is better to help someone and feel a bit stupid afterwards than not to help,” said Mrs Khangura, who finally took the brave decision to leave her children on the beach and swim to the rescue herself.

As coastguards resumed their search of the shore for the body on Friday, watch manager Peter Wheeler reinforced her message.

“Give us a call straightaway if it looks like someone is in trouble. We can only respond as quickly as when we get the call. In this case, once the call came, the lifeboat was on the scene in three minutes,” he said.

He also warned beach goers to beware of shelving beaches and currents and to respect the sea as a potentially dangerous place.

Most Read

Mr Wheeler highlighted the wisdom of sticking to beaches controlled by lifeguards - Thursday's tragedy occurred off Yarmouth's unguarded North Beach.

Police meanwhile commended the brave actions of Mrs Khangura but cautioned: “We would always encourage members of the public who see anyone in distress in the water to contact the appropriate emergency services and not to put their own life in danger.”

Mrs Khangura, 35, of Acle, was on the beach with her two boys, Jake, five, and Lex, two, when she noticed two bathers, one of whom later struggled ashore, fighting to keep their heads above water and shouting help. They were close to the beach, but other people assumed they were larking about.

Recalling the horrific slow-motion drama which began shortly before 2pm, she said: “I only took the children to the beach to lighten the mood because it is my dad's funeral today.

“As I went for a paddle, I noticed two men with dark hair about 10ft to 15ft out, both facing the seafront. Their heads kept bobbing under the water and when they came up they were shouting 'help'. They were not frantic or splashing about and I wondered if they were mucking about or not.

“When I asked, 'Is someone going to help?', someone else on the beach said they were just messing about and had been doing it for some time. One of the men started floating on his back but the other one was still bobbing up and down and shouting help.”

Despite the reassurances of other beach goers, Mrs Khangura said she began to feel uneasy about the situation and ran to a post to untie a torpedo buoyancy aid.

She said: “I struggled to untie it and by the time I got back, one of the men had got on to the beach. But all I could see of the other one was a dark head about 30ft out.”

With no one else having moved still, Mrs Khangura shouted for someone to watch her children and plunged into the water, vowing to do her best even though she is only a slight figure.

However, by the time she had swum out with the buoyancy aid to the spot where she had last seen him, she could find no trace of a body.

Returning to shore, she struggled over a steep shelf - taking bathers from knee-deep water to out of their depth - and believes this is what caught out the two men, neither of whom could apparently swim.

Back on the beach, she discovered another woman had finally dialled 999, but despite a massive search, involving police, lifeguards, coastguards, three lifeboats and helicopters, the man was not located. His friend, who was in the water with him, was taken to James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston, in a distressed state.

A day after the tragedy, Mrs Khangura said she could still not help asking herself: “If I had not had such a negative response on the beach, might I have gone in more quickly.”

Blob. At low water yesterday afternoon, coastguard teams resumed their search of the beach from Winterton along to Yarmouth's outer harbour, aided by volunteer private pilots from the Ellough airfield at Beccles.

Last night police had yet to release the name of the missing man, believed to be local and in his 20s.