Boat operations at Bournemouth Pier have been temporarily halted following the tragic deaths of a young girl and a teenage boy. Joe Abbess, a 17-year-old from Southampton, and Sunnah Khan, a 12-year-old from Buckinghamshire, both passed away in the hospital after an incident that took place last week. An inquest has suggested that a riptide may have caused the pair to drown. The suspension of boat operations will stay in effect until the conclusion of a police investigation.
Dorset Police have stated that they are considering all possibilities, including weather conditions and water state, and have dismissed speculation that the victims had jumped from the pier. The incident involved ten swimmers on a day when the beach was crowded due to the half-term break. The Dorset Belle sightseeing boat was impounded by the police shortly after the incident, but they have clarified that it is just one of several lines of inquiry.
The police also confirmed that none of the swimmers were involved in any collisions or contact with vessels in the water. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has not launched a formal investigation but continues to make inquiries.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council have stated that the suspension of boat operations from the pier is a precautionary measure while the police investigation is ongoing. A spokesperson for the council said, “We are aware the investigation is complex and will consult with Dorset Police when the investigation is complete.”
A man in his 40s, who was on the water at the time of the incident, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter but has since been released while inquiries continue. In a hearing at Bournemouth Town Hall, Dorset coroner’s officer Nicola Muller revealed that post-mortem examinations identified drowning as the cause of the deaths. She also stated that emergency services were contacted by members of the public after suggestions that the pair had been caught in a riptide. Riptides are strong currents that can quickly drag people and objects away from the shore and into deeper waters.
Joe Abbess’ family described him as “a fabulous young man,” while Sunnah Khan’s mother, Stephanie Williams, paid tribute to her “beautiful daughter” on Twitter. She wrote, “No parent should ever have to go through what her dad and I are going through. We love you so much baby girl.”
The inquest has been opened and adjourned for a pre-inquest review hearing scheduled for September 18.
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