A Basingstoke coroner has recorded a verdict of accidental death in the case of a British mother who drowned while swimming at an Orihuela Costa beach in June, when red flags were flying, and she shouldn’t have been in the water. Julie Dudhill, 57, a project manager from Fleet, Hampshire, was swept out to sea after drifting away just yards from her husband, Andy, in the water on Monday June 27th. They had travelled up the coast from where they were staying at San Pedro del Pinatar.
Her husband claimed in his evidence that the lifeguards didn’t dash in to save her because she wasn’t waving enough. The Courier reported earlier this year that red flags had been flying in the area because of the strong currents, and the couple had been hailed before by lifeguards to get out of the water. Mrs Dudhill’s body was brought ashore to La Glea beach, Campoamor, where she was pronounced dead at the scene. Orihuela council at the time also reiterated the need for bathers to observe the rules concerning red flags.
Mr Dudhill, 51, told the inquest he dashed out of the sea to get help from lifeguards only for them to allegedly dismiss claims that she was struggling in the water.
“We are keen beach-goers and surfers, and have been for 18 years or so. It’s always been a choppy beach with a few waves but nothing that we felt was too dangerous. About 4pm or 4.30pm we went down for one more swim, we usually go where people are swimming and after about 20 minutes we decided to get out.
“I turned around and literally she was just behind me as we were getting out but in that short space of time afterwards she had difficulties getting back to the shore line and she said to me she was having difficulties. She was calling out and luckily in front of me were two lifeguards and I was nearly out so I quickly went up to them and told them she was getting into difficulty.”
“They asked if she was a good swimmer and I told them ‘yes she’s a good swimmer but would not be calling out if she didn’t need help. They didn’t react and stayed on the shore line, they suggested to me that if she was having difficulties she would be waving her arms about more. By that time, which felt like five minutes later, two more lifeguards turned up and she was waving at them but they were under the impression she was okay.”
“They seemed to think she was not in danger despite what I was saying to them. She was calling out to them, I can’t understand why they didn’t react faster. I could see the lifeguards were not doing anything so I went in but one of them called me back.”
“Then one of the lifeguards took a leisurely swim out to her. The next thing I know the lifeguard is saying she needs oxygen. By the time they brought her back I just knew it was too late.”
“She was brought back to the shore line, they gave her CPR and an ambulance was called but it seemed to take an age to turn up and they worked on her for about half an a hour or 45 minutes – by then it was already over.”
He added: “It’s dreadful from the lifeguards, especially when it’s on a crowded beach.
“I can’t understand why it happened with four lifeguards there. It’s bizarre as she’s a strong swimmer and medically fit, but it shouldn’t have happened.”