Two siblings died after playing game to see how far they could swim out to sea, inquest finds
The deaths of two teenagers who got into difficulty in the sea while on a family holiday were “tragic” accidents, a coroner has ruled.
Malika Shamas was 14 when she died in August last year. Two days later, Haider Shamas, 18, died in hospital having been pulled out of the sea at Clacton in Essex.
Malika died of immersion while Haider died from pneumonia, brain damage and drowning, an inquest heard on Monday.
The Luton-based siblings - who could both swim - were with their cousin at the time. They were playing a game to see how far they could go from the shore.
Essex’s senior coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray, who ruled their deaths were an accident on Monday, said she is minded to write a prevention of future death report dealing with the quality of warning signs near the scene.
The council insisted at the time that the beach is safe.
Ms Beasley-Murray has said some of the warning signs could have a larger print, and should appear in a child friendly format – adding she is “most concerned” that safety improvements are made before the Easter holiday.
The inquest heard how Malika, who was wearing a dress, was still at a point in the sea where she could stand before panicking.
Her brother and other children tried to help. Their mother, Shagufta Shamas, told the inquest how she had struggled to stand on the soft sand in the water as she tried to help the children.
“I was clinging on to this precious life,” she said.
“The sand underneath my feet was giving way and I was trying to reach this little girl. This happened within minutes.
“Should there not have been signs in this particular area saying that you should not go in and that this is what can occur?”
The inquest heard that a nearby sign on a flood defence warned against bathing “due to varying depths of water” but the coroner noted that a person has to be quite close to see it.
Their father Shamas Riaz told ITV News in August: “I don’t understand what happened.”
He said: “They were beautiful. I miss them.
“Haider was great. He liked sport, to study.
“Malika was happy. She made other people happy.”
The siblings’ deaths came a year after 15-year-old Ben Quartermaine drowned near the pier.
Haider and Malika’s uncle Majid Riaz told ITV News last year: “The authorities knew of what happened a year before, they should have improved the safety measurements for the families coming. Now we suffered it. It does get you angry.”
Witness Becky Bryant, 40, a carer from Wivenhoe, told Press Association in August: “It was so distressing, everyone was trying to do what they could – lifeguards, air ambulance, they truly worked as a team.”
She said the teenagers were with a group of up to 30 people at the beach.