Rescuers fear sand tragedy

SERIOUS concerns were voiced today that youngsters could tunnel into a sand shelf on Felixstowe beach and be killed in a collapse.

Richard Cornwell

SERIOUS concerns were voiced today that youngsters could tunnel into a sand shelf on Felixstowe beach and be killed in a collapse.

Earlier this summer a three-year-old girl died at Upton Towans beach, near Hayle, Cornwall, after the hole she was digging gave way and she was smothered by sand.

Such accidents are rare but coast rescuers at Felixstowe are worried the new ridge created by erosion on the shore near the Town Hall could pose a similar danger.


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John Cresswell, chairman of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service, was surprised at the depth of the shelf off Undercliff Road West - where newly placed sand and shingle has been washed away as the sea naturally reshapes the beach.

He took photos of his three-year-old grandson Guy Comber holding a one-meter measure in front of the shelf, which is 1.7m deep in some places.

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Mr Cresswell said: “During our weekend patrols children were seen playing above and below these ridges and my concerns are that any child or indeed a teenager digging into or sliding down them could easily cause a collapse with fatal consequences.

“The UK has only recently had a fatality involving children digging tunnels in sand.

“We are being told that the beach is being naturally re-profiled by the sea.

“Meanwhile, while this process is taking place we have created yet another possible beach hazard.”

He would like the contractors to return and flatten the area.

Felixstowe coastguard Jo Arlow also shared concerns about the beach danger and was also worried about youngsters digging in the mini sand cliff or running and not realising there was a sudden drop.

He said: “We are concerned about the erosion and are monitoring the situation, taking regular photographs. Our area operations manager Adrian Bates has also visited to see the situation.”

Contractors Team Van Oord have been creating the new beach at Felixstowe by spreading 500,000 tonnes of sand and shingle along the shore as part of a £10 million sea defence scheme designed to protect 1,600 homes and businesses in the low-lying south of the resort.

The Environment Agency says the new beach is being “re-profiled” by the sea - with the waves taking and returning material to create a natural curve and shape, as expected.

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