Cornwall beach drownings in pandemic a 'grim reality'

A coroner has said three drownings within four months on Cornwall beaches during the Covid-19 pandemic was a "grim reality".

Three men died on beaches that were not lifeguarded between May and August 2020, an inquest in Truro heard.

Cornwall coroner Andrew Cox said he would be sending a prevention of future deaths report to the Cabinet Office.

And he said without the efforts of the RNLI, the number of deaths could have been even worse.

Michael Pender, 63, from St Merryn, Cornwall, Jan Kemplar, 30, from Walsall, and Paul Mullen, 56, from Radlett, Hertfordshire, drowned at Treyarnon Bay, Porthcurno beach and Church Cove, Gunwalloe respectively.

'Gap in safety'

Mr Cox said that ordinarily lifeguards would have been deployed on the beaches.

But only 70 out of 248 beaches lifeguarded the year before had guards on them at the time of the deaths.

Mr Cox was told there was a "potential gap in safety provision as a consequence" and what happened was "obvious and foreseeable".

Mr Klempar died two days before lifeguards were deployed at Porthcurno beach.

Mr Cox said: "In my judgement it was not due to any lack of effort on the part of the RNLI, on the contrary they moved mountains to have a service."

He added that the RNLI should have been given an advanced warning of the lifting of Covid restrictions, as it had been promised by the government, but the charity only found out at the same time as the public.

Mr Cox said he would also send a copy of his report to the current Covid inquiry.

He recorded conclusions of misadventure for all three men.

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