All night sea search for missing girl

RESCUE workers have been searching overnight for the body of a 10-year-old girl after a trip to the Essex coast ended in tragedy.

Roddy Ashworth

RESCUE workers have been searching overnight for the body of a 10-year-old girl after a trip to the Essex coast ended in tragedy.

The youngster was playing in the sea at Clacton with a friend of the same age when both got into difficulties at around 4pm.

Members of the public rushed to help the two stricken girls and although one was brought to shore the other one disappeared beneath the waves.

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A massive search operation including the RNLI, Thames Coastguard, Tendring Beach Patrol and helicopters from both Essex Police and the RAF was mounted in a desperate effort to find the youngster.

However, as darkness fell last night the air search was suspended until first light today, although crews from Clacton lifeboat continued to scour the water by flare and torchlight.

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A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed that the search had now switched from a rescue to a recovery operation.

The mother of the girl, who comes from Buckinghamshire, was last night on her way to Clacton.

A man who saw the girls in difficulty - believed to be just one or two metres from the shore - dived in and rescued one of the girls. He then went back in to find the other, but was forced to come ashore after suffering exhaustion and swallowing water.

He was taken to Clacton and District Hospital, and later released.

The rescued girl is still being treated in hospital for shock. Her parents are with her.

The tragedy happened to the south of Clacton Pier, opposite the Marine Parade West junction with Trafalgar Road.

Nigel Brown, communications manager for Tendring District Council, said that members of the councils beach patrol were the first official rescuers on the scene.

“It was a real team effort and it is terribly sad that it doesn't look like there will be a good outcome.

“I know that the thoughts of every member of the beach patrol will be with the family at this terribly difficult time.

“The beach patrol were there within moments. Two of our boats were sent out. A boat was also sent up from Walton. We also had staff come in from Brightlingsea and Walton to help, as well as patrol members who were off duty.”

Mr Brown, who lives on the seafront, added that he had become aware of the tragedy after he heard both the police and RAF helicopters flying overhead.

“I went out to see what was happening.

“I could see lots of people lined up on the pier. There were jet skis from the local watersports club, the RNLI, coastguards and lots of other craft in the water looking for the girl.

“There were RNLI members swimming under the pier and between the breakwaters.

At the scene last night Mark Pickburn, a construction manager from Clapham in London, said he had been alerted by his son to the accident as they were sitting close to the pier.

“There were lots of people on the edge of the pier, looking over. Then the police helicopter came over and then a yellow rescue helicopter.

“There were lots of boats there was a large RNLI dingy, and lifeboatmen went searching under the pier.

People were walking down the breakwaters looking for something at first we didn't know what had happened.

“It's such a tragedy.”

James Durrant, from Thurrock, said he had seen RNLI rescuers linked together by rope walking through the waters between breakwaters on the beach.

He added: “There were all kinds of boats out there helping, including jet-skis.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “The 10-year-old girl was playing with another 10-year-old friend when they both got into difficulty at 4pm on Sunday, August 16.

“An air, sea and coast search and rescue operation was launched by Essex Police and HM Coastguard. The police helicopter helped clear a section of the beach opposite where the girls first experienced their problems.

“The girls were playing close to a groyne.

“The air search has been halted until first light, but officers and coastguard staff are continuing to work throughout the night.”

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was a tragic accident.

“After all this time it does become a body search. The first girl was recovered in the breakwater so only one or two metres from the shore.”

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