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'Tombstoning' warning after teenager's death at north coast inlet

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Emergency services at the scene where a young man lost his life in an accident near Dunluce Castle, Portrush, yesterday

Emergency services at the scene where a young man lost his life in an accident near Dunluce Castle, Portrush, yesterday

Emergency services at the scene where a young man lost his life in an accident near Dunluce Castle, Portrush, yesterday

Emergency services at the scene where a young man lost his life in an accident near Dunluce Castle, Portrush, yesterday

Emergency services at the scene where a young man lost his life in an accident near Dunluce Castle, Portrush, yesterday

People have been warned about the extreme dangers of jumping into the sea from cliffs after a teenager tragically lost his life on the north coast.

He was one of four boys from Belfast who were visiting the area when the accident happened on Tuesday evening.

They had been jumping off rocks into the sea at an inlet close to Dunluce Castle near Bushmills in a practice known as 'tombstoning'.

The young man who died had sustained a head injury as he entered the water in a cove known locally as the Lord's Prayer.

A second boy who was rescued suffered minor back injuries while the two other friends were unharmed.

All four had been wearing wetsuits at the time but no other safety equipment.

Coastguard teams from Ballycastle and Coleraine, and the Rescue 199 helicopter from Prestwick, rushed to the scene around 5pm along with the ambulance service, Portrush RNLI and the PSNI after the group called 999 and raised the alarm.

Police said they were "investigating the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of a young male", but are not treating it as suspicious.

The coastguard said the youth's three friends had made "valiant efforts" to try and rescue him after they got into difficulty.

They had been supporting him in the water to keep him afloat as he lay unconscious but were unable to get him out.

Two of those in the water were able to make it safely back to shore and another was taken from the water by helicopter to coastguards on the cliff top.

We would see quite a lot of kids doing this sort of thing in this area but the problem is that you don't know what you are jumping into or at what depth Alistair Simpson, Coleraine Coastguard

An RNLI jetski was the first to reach the casualty and summoned a lifeboat to recover him from the water.

He was transferred to Whiterocks beach and despite frantic efforts to save his life, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Alistair Simpson, station officer with Coleraine Coastguard, said the four friends had been engaged in the leisure activity, often carried out as part 'Coasteering', in which groups climb, jump and swim along rocky foreshores.

"It's a fun thing to do but we would really encourage people to join official 'Coasteering' parties and go out to do it on a safe basis with an organised group which is properly equipped and carries out risk assessments," he said.

"We would see quite a lot of kids doing this sort of thing in this area but the problem is that you don't know what you are jumping into or at what depth.

"The water can be deceptive and the swell can wash you back against the rocks after you jump in."

Mr Simpson said safety equipment should also always be worn including a wet suit, life jacket and helmet.

Charles Grossie from Portrush RNLI added: "As restrictions ease and more people are coming to the beach we would urge everyone to take care and be safe."

On the north coast, we have a very rugged coastline with unpredictable swells and currents and I understand the attraction of these pursuits. But our waters can be dangerous particularly if you were unfamiliar or inexperienced Claire Sugden

East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden commended the efforts of the young man's friends who tried to save him. It is heartbreaking to lose such a young life," she said.

"It would have been very traumatic for those who were with him but I do hope that they take some comfort in knowing that they did everything that they could.

"As we emerge from lockdown and the weather improves of course we want to enjoy time outside and in the sea.

"On the north coast, we have a very rugged coastline with unpredictable swells and currents and I understand the attraction of these pursuits. But our waters can be dangerous particularly if you were unfamiliar or inexperienced," she said.

Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald said the Causeway community had been left shocked and saddened by the tragedy.

She added: "This death is a tragedy and my thoughts are with the family and friends and everyone who knew this young person at this sad and difficult time. I want to commend the actions of the lifeboat crews and other emergency services for their efforts and on rescuing the others involved.

"I would urge everyone to take care and show caution around the coast at all times."

This is not the first tragedy involving a young man diving off rocks into the water with friends near Dunluce.

In September 2004, Adam Pollock (31) from Ballymoney was swept out to sea and later lost his life while two friends who were with him at the time were treated for hypothermia.

Belfast Telegraph