THE FAMILY of a man who drowned saving a little girl from the sea at West Wittering have been informed of his death.
The 32-year-old, from Sutton, Surrey, spotted the five-year-old being carried out to sea in a rubber ring just after midday on Saturday.
He managed to rescue the child and pass her to another woman, from Guildford, took her back to shore. Unfortunately the man was unable to reach the shore himself because of the strong tide. He was pulled unconscious from the sea and, despite the efforts of the public and emergency services to to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at the busy West Sussex beach.
The girl was on the beach with her family who are from North West London.
Emergency services were immediately sent to the scene, including an air ambulance from the South East Ambulance Service, but despite resuscitation being attempted, the man was later declared dead.
The coastguard has now issued a warning about the use of inflatables in the sea following this tragedy.
Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman Julia Gosling said: ‘At 12.09pm on Saturday, Solent Coastguard received a report that a man on West Wittering beach had been recovered unconscious from the water after retrieving an inflatable toy from the sea.
‘Selsey Coastguard Rescue Team were sent to the scene and assisted with the air ambulance landing site and the casualty was transferred to hospital.
She said the child’s mother was understandably upset at the tragedy.
She added: ‘Offshore winds yesterday also caused multiple incidents involving inflatables blowing out to sea.
‘The coastguard recommends that inflatable toys should not be used in the sea with offshore winds and if you do use one please tether it to an adult on the shore.’
Ward councillor Roger Marshall said: ‘There’s not been anything like this in recent memory, but obviously we don’t know all the details yet, so it’s hard to know what exactly happened.
‘It’s very sad news, particularly for this man’s family.’
The beach is part of the privately owned West Wittering Estate, but no-one was available to comment.