A five-year-old girl has died after being swept away by the tides at a popular Dorset beach.
Rescuers rushed to save the girl and a woman with her, who were in distress in the water at Durdle Door, near Weymouth, at around 11.30am today, but were only able to pull the woman ashore.
A Ministry of Defence military range safety vessel responded to a mayday signal and recovered the girl before she was transferred to Dorset Count Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Rescuers rushed to save the girl and a woman with her, who were in distress in the water at Durdle Door, near Weymouth, but were only able to save to pull the woman ashore (stock image)
The schoolgirl, from Salisbury, was in the water with an unidentified woman at the time when the water when they ran into difficulty.
Despite the best efforts from rescuers, she was unable to be saved and drowned.
Detective Inspector Steve May, of Dorset Police, said: ‘Our thoughts are with the family of the young girl involved at this very difficult time.
‘At this time there is nothing to suggest this was anything other than a tragic accident however, with the sudden death of any child we have an obligation to carry out an investigation to establish the full circumstances of what happened.
‘I am appealing to anyone who witnessed how the girl came to be in the water and has not already spoken to police to contact us immediately.
‘There were also a number of visitors in the area at the time and I am appealing to anyone who may have filmed or photographed the incident to please get in touch as it may assist our investigation.’
A spokesman for the RNLI confirmed that two lifeboats had been launched from Weymouth after they received a distress call to the area off Durdle Door.
A Ministry of Defence military range safety vessel responded to a mayday signal and recovered the girl before she was transferred to Dorset Count Hospital, where she was pronounced dead
‘There were already Ministry of Defence boats in the area as the MoD was test firing on the ranges on the cliffs above and they had boats out there to stop other vessels from entering the area. One of these boats was first on the scene and the crew pulled the child aboard.
‘As far as we are aware, a woman was brought to shore by members of the public but the child was taken back to the lifeboat station in a lifeboat.’
Basia Sopel, from Warrington, was staying at the Durdle Door campsite.
She said she was on the beach when it happened but wasn’t aware there had been a tragic accident until the guards said they were closing the beach.
She said: ‘I noticed three boats and the helicopter but I didn’t really see anyone going into the water.
‘The waves were really strong and the sea was quite loud. I didn’t notice anyone shouting for help.
‘The guards came and asked everyone to leave because they were closing the beach, I think that was about half 12 and it was closed until some time after 5pm.
‘When I asked why they were closing it he said a girl was swept into the water. It’s very sad.’
A spokesman for the Maritime Coastguard Agency said in a statement: ‘Just before 11.30am today HM Coastguard received multiple 999 calls from members of the public reporting a child and a woman in distress in the water at Durdle Door, Dorset.
‘Coastguards immediately issued a Mayday relay broadcast to all vessels in the area. An MoD military range safety vessel responded and was almost immediately on scene. The adult casualty was rescued by a member of the public and the child casualty was recovered from the water by the MOD vessel.
‘Lulworth and Wyke Coastguard Rescue Teams, Weymouth RNLI Lifeboat, HM Coastguard Lee-on-Solent SAR helicopter, Dorset Police, South West Ambulance Service along with their helimed were all sent to the scene.
‘The child was brought ashore by the RNLI Weymouth Lifeboat and was transferred into the care of South West Ambulance Service and taken to Dorchester Hospital.’