Three British tourists swept down Vietnam waterfall to death

Hanoi (AFP) - Three British tourists found dead at the foot of a surging waterfall in Vietnam fell into a current above the 20 metre drop-off, the director of a tour company told AFP Saturday.

The bodies of two women and one man were retrieved Friday by scores of aid workers who scrambled down cliffs abutting the tiered waterfalls outside of Dalat, a city nestled in Vietnam's central highlands.

The Datanla falls are a popular hub for adventure tourists, with opportunities to rappel on the rocks and luge around the jungle park.

Le Viet Luc, the director of a company that runs tours to the site, said the trio was exploring one of the area's seven waterfalls without proper permission from the agency when they were swept up by a strong current.

"They fell into the stream of this waterfall and died after being hit by violent waters," he said, adding that their bodies were transferred to Ho Chi Minh City late Friday night.

The British Embassy in Hanoi released a statement on behalf of the family of the man, Christian Sloan, who local media reported to be 25 years old.

"Christian's death is a very sad loss to us. He was a very popular young man, formerly in the Royal Navy, who had many, many friends not just locally but around the world. He lived for life," the statement said.

The embassy declined to release the names of the two women, ages 18 and 25, who entered the country together earlier this month, according to state media.

"Our sympathies are with the families and friends at this difficult time. We are in close contact with local authorities in Vietnam on their behalf," the UK embassy said.

Vietnam and its neighbours in Southeast Asia are travel magnets for young backpackers, but accidents are frequent amid weak law enforcement and scant safety oversight.