Tragedy of school girl who drowned

A 10-year-old girl who tragically drowned in the sea off a busy holiday beach was agonizingly close to being rescued, an inquest heard.

Stella Akanbi had been swimming with Jamila Iliasu off the beach at Clacton when the two good friends got into difficulty.

Chelmsford Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that father and son Robert and Joshua Joyce risked their own lives in a bid to rescue the two girls.

The inquest heard that at one point Stella managed to clamber onto Mr Joyce’s back as he desperately tried to help her, but she then slipped off and went underwater.

Mr Joyce also found himself in difficulties after the attempted rescue but managed to get back safely.

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Two other men, Naim Haidari and Atam Sharma witnessed what was happening and paddled out in a dinghy before jumping into the water as they tried to help.

However, neither of the men were strong swimmers and soon found themselves in difficulties in the strong currents and had to return to shore.

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A massive air and sea rescue search involving more than 60 people was launched in a bid to find the Milton Keynes youngster who slipped under the water just after 4pm on August 16 last year.

The inquest heard how Stella, who was visiting the resort with Jamila’s family, was pulled from the water by a Clacton lifeboat crew nearly 24 hours later near to the Palace groyne but was already dead.

No members of Stella’s family were at the inquest but Essex Assistant Deputy Coroner, Lorna Tagliavini, praised those involved with the rescue efforts in deep water and strong currents.

She commended the would-be-rescuers for their “very brave” actions as they risked their own lives tried to rescue Stella.

The inquest heard how Mr Joyce spotted girls were in difficulties and that Stella then disappeared under water.

Essex Coroner’s Officer Paul Gammon said: “Robert Joyce saw her in trouble and swam out to her, at one point she was on his back but the current was too strong and despite his best efforts she slid off his back and disappeared with the current.”

Jamila was left in extreme shock and required and was taken to hospital.

Stella’s family, speaking after her death, paid tribute to the youngster saying she was a “a special child indeed” who touched the lives of those who came in contact with her.”

She was a promising young athlete, representing Milton Keynes in competitions, and was also a talented writer who enjoyed poetry and regularly submitted her works for publication in the local church newsletter.

Ms Tagliavini concluded Stella drowned and recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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