Council investigates whether checks were made before tragedy

DANGER Hot Walls, Old Portsmouth
DANGER Hot Walls, Old Portsmouth
Picture: SWNS

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INVESTIGATORS are looking into whether steps could have been taken to prevent a man drowning off Portsmouth Harbour.

Portsmouth City Council’s legal team is checking whether a thorough risk assessment of the seafront was done prior to the death of Marco Araujo on July 26 last year.

Mr Araujo, 33, was last seen in the Solent near Tower Street, Old Portsmouth, after he jumped in to rescue four-year-old Destiny Butcher, Of Landguard Road, Eastney, and a 10-year-old girl, who had both been swept out.

As previously reported in The News, the two girls made it back to land, but Mr Araujo, of Grafton Street, Buckland, Portsmouth, never returned.

His body was found 12 days later.

The matter has been brought to the council’s attention by a member of the public who believes safety checks were out-of-date at the time.

But David Evans, seafront manager, said two new signs warning people about waves, currents and ship movements went up with an existing one not long before Mr Araujo’s death.

After Mr Araujo’s death, Mr Evans went to the Queen’s Harbour Master to see else what else could be done because he realised risks changed depending on the weather conditions and the tide.

He then pursued the matter with the RNLI, which carried out a one-day assessment.

A report of its findings along with a survey of the signs went to the council.

It revealed that it wasn’t safe to swim off the harbour as it was the main shipping channel and recommended more signs being put up.

Six new ones will now be put up at the entrance of the Hot Walls, the bottom of The Round Tower and the entrance of Victoria Pier to tell people not to swim or jump.

The signs will be put up from Wednesday.

Mr Evans said: ‘To swim in that area with all those currents and the rip tide that goes through there, you have got to be a really strong swimmer. But I don’t think the signage would have stopped this brave man jumping in to save these girls –it wouldn’t have stopped me.

‘I am very keen to see people have a good time when they come here and enjoy their time at the seafront.

‘We can’t stop people swimming there, but we can try to guide people.’ A council spokeswoman said: ‘We can confirm a member of the public has questioned whether a risk assessment was completed by the council in this area of the seafront and we are currently investigating this issue.’