Weather changed before girl and father swept off Cornish rocks, inquest told

Caroline Davies and agency
Rudy Bruynius and daughter McKayla. Photograph: PA

A woman whose husband and two-year-old daughter died after being swept off rocks on a family holiday has described her shock at how quickly and dramatically the weather changed.

Rudy Bruynius, 33, and daughter McKayla were killed at Fistral beach in Newquay, Cornwall, on 19 August last year.

Lisinda Bruynius told an inquest at Cornwall coroner’s court, sitting in Truro, that McKayla was strapped into a pushchair when they were hit first by one wave and then by a second, bigger wave which dragged them into the sea. The couple’s two older children managed to scramble to safety.

The family were on a camping holiday from their home in Morden, south London. Witnesses said the waves were 8-10ft and getting bigger. An RNLI lifeboat, coastguard helicopter, beach lifeguards, police, air ambulance and ambulance crews were quickly at the scene.

“We were fishing off the rocks and within a short time the waves became bigger and started to splash us. We were totally shocked and totally wet and focused upon McKayla. My two boys started to move further up the rocks we were on,” Bruynius said in a statement read to the inquest.

“Rudy, McKayla and I were in the process of moving up the rock when a large wave washed us off the rock. There had been no time to say anything to Rudy when a second large wave hit us and dragged us into the water.

“Rudy had managed to get McKayla from the buggy and she was in his arms. I could hear Rudy screaming for help and I could hear the boys screaming for help. I glanced across and could no longer see McKayla in Rudy’s arms. Rudy appeared to be floating in an upright position with his head back. I swam over to Rudy but he was unconscious.”

The statement continued: “I remember the shock at how quickly the weather conditions changed that day and the tragic effect it has had upon our family.”

Bruynius and her husband were pulled from the sea by beach lifeguards, and a lifeboat found McKayla a short time later. Rudy Bruynius, a landscape gardener who was originally from South Africa, died in hospital in Truro later that night. McKayla died four days later at Bristol children’s hospital.

A postmortem found Rudy Bruynius died from drowning and McKayla died from hypoxic ischemic brain injury due to cardiac arrest and drowning.

DC Jarrod Yewen said the family were in the water for no more than 15 minutes, and the deaths were treated by police as a tragic accident.

“That particular day there was a developing weather front coming in. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the weather was going to change so quickly,” he said.

The Cornwall coroner, Emma Carlyon, recorded conclusions of accidental death. “All the evidence suggests this was a tragic accident because Rudy and McKayla had been washed into the sea when the conditions changed dramatically,” she said.

Lisinda Bruynius, who did not attend the hearing, said it a statement afterwards: “On August 19 our lives changed forever. We were fishing off rocks when the sea conditions changed so quickly and caught us out. We didn’t have time to react and my sons and I have been left devastated by what then happened.

“Rudy was a loving husband and a loving father. He leaves a void that can never be filled. He was our everything. We love and miss him so much.

“McKayla, our gorgeous and beautiful baby girl, is forever in our hearts and the pain that myself and the boys feel at losing them both is indescribable. The last eight months have been extremely difficult and I hope people can learn from our tragedy.”

She thanked everyone involved in the rescue, as well as the police and the medical teams. A fundraising page set up to support the family raised nearly £50,000.