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Hundreds mourn five men who died in Camber Sands beach tragedy

Published 04/09/2016

Nitharsan Ravi, one of the five men who drowned in the sea at Camber Sands during a day trip to the popular beach on the hottest day of the year
Nitharsan Ravi, one of the five men who drowned in the sea at Camber Sands during a day trip to the popular beach on the hottest day of the year

Hundreds of mourners have gathered for the funeral of five young friends who died during a day trip to a beach.

Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18, known as Ken, and his brother Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 22, known as Kobi, both of Normandy Way, Erith, south-east London, died at Camber Sands, near Rye in East Sussex last month.

Their friends Nitharsan Ravi, 22, of Admaston Road, Plumstead, south-east London, Inthushan Sriskantharasa, 23, of Chadwell Road, Grays, Essex, and Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, of Elsa Road, Welling, south-east London, also died.

A Hindu ceremony and petal laying took place at Plumstead Common, south east London.

Following the deaths, relatives of some of the men criticised the lack of lifeguards at Camber Sands, and suggested they may have stood a chance of survival if the beach had been manned.

People speaking on behalf of the grieving families at the dawn service addressed the crowd, mostly speaking in Tamil - the language of the community the boys came from.

MP for Eltham Clive Efford also spoke briefly, saying: "Questions need to be asked about how we arrange safety on our beaches."

Sai Yoghananthan, from the Camber Sands Boys Funeral Committee, said: "Nothing like this can ever happen again."

Relatives and friends wept as the coffins were carried into marquee tents, before mourners walked around and paid their respects.

What happened was "a big tragedy for the Tamil community", said councillor Krishna Suresh, former mayor of Harrow.

He said that in times like this the community comes together, and also praised the group of tragic friends, saying: "They have done a lot of volunteer work."

Councillor Suresh said that as well as being well educated, the young men - who enjoyed football and cricket - had "lots of extra talents".

The men played sport with the Jaffna 11 club which plays cricket in the British Tamil Cricket League.

Subash Vettivelu who had known the victims for a long time through the club said they were all "very, very friendly" and "very good players".

Josie Holloway, 20, from Greatstone in Kent, launched a petition on in July - before the friends' tragedy took place - calling for lifeguards on Camber Sands beach during the summer.

The online campaign has more than 8,000 supporters.

Speaking at the funeral about how she felt when she heard of the deaths, Ms Holloway said: "It was obviously really gutting. I thought that it would have prevented it if they had them."

She said there were "up to 30,000" people on the beach on the day of the drowning.

Lifeguards were deployed on the August bank holiday weekend at the popular beach.

The local council accepted an offer from the RNLI to provide a temporary team of up to six lifeguards.

The RNLI also said a team would be on hand to give safety information to all beach-goers between the Saturday and Monday.

Mr Ravi's family have previously said they felt "very angry" at the lack of response from the authorities following the death of another man, Brazilian Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, at Camber last month.

Mr Ravi's younger brother, Ajirthan, 19, said: "There wasn't any lifeguards cruising around, because they would have quickly noticed these boys drowning, and could have at least saved their lives."

A spokesman for Rother District Council said that, despite there being no lifeguards, there were summer patrols to advise people of potential dangers.

Camber has attracted people from outside the area in recent years who were unfamiliar with the sea and the dangers it poses, he added.

Last month, local resident Emily Van Eyssen, 44, said money raised through car parking charges at Camber should fund lifeguards there throughout the summer.

The men were cremated at Hither Green Crematorium after their coffins were taken there in horse-drawn carriages.

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