'Heartbreaking' deaths of mother and son after beach rescue
The deaths of a mother and son following a rescue operation at Aberdeen beach have been described by onlookers as "devastating" and "heartbreaking".
Emergency services were called to reports of people in difficulty in the water at around 4.45pm on Saturday.
A major rescue operation was launched and five people were pulled from the water and taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
A 37-year-old woman and a six-year-old boy, understood to be mother and son, later died in hospital.
A man, 28, a woman, 25, and 13-year-old boy remain in hospital for treatment.
Emma Anderson, 25, who was visiting the beach with her family, told the Sun on Sunday newspaper: "I saw what looked like a small child floating in the water - I am absolutely devastated."
Rachel McBain, 25, who rang 999, told the Sunday Mail newspaper she saw two children go into the waves.
"I turned away for a few minutes and when I looked back I saw the two bodies floating in the water," she said.
"I was panicking but phoned the police. The next minute it was absolute chaos and there were sirens within seconds."
Writing on Facebook, onlooker Stacie McPherson said the incident was "absolutely heartbreaking".
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was also among those paying tribute. She tweeted: "Tragic, heartbreaking news. My thoughts are with all those involved."
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart posted: "Sorry to hear of the tragic event that has taken place at Aberdeen beach. My thoughts are with those involved, their families and friends."
Police Scotland appealed for witnesses.
Chief Inspector Stewart Mackie said: "This is a very tragic incident which has resulted in a woman and young boy sadly losing their lives - it will undoubtedly bring shock and sadness to the entire city of Aberdeen and further afield.
"We urge anyone who witnessed the incident or perhaps has information that could assist, to make contact with police via 101.
"Given the recent weather conditions we'd urge members of the public to take care, especially when near coastal or beach areas."
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said two of those rescued were pulled from the sea by Aberdeen inshore lifeboat crew and others were recovered by police.