Bournemouth beach victims Sunnah Khan and Joe Abbess ‘died by drowning’

Sunna Khan - Twitter

Sunna Khan – Twitter

Victims of the Bournemouth beach tragedy have died by drowning, a coroner has heard.

Sunnah Khan, 12, and Joe Abbess, 17, lost their lives after they and eight others struggled in the water on Wednesday.

Police are investigating whether washing the propeller of the Dorset Belle pleasure cruiser may have contributed to the incident.

An inquest in Bournemouth heard the couple died of drowning, amid speculation they were caught in a riptide.

Inquests into the deaths of Khan, of High Wycombe, and Abbess, of Southampton, were formally opened and adjourned by the coroner on Monday.

Nicola Muller, the coroner’s assistant, confirmed reports of a sudden riptide in the sea at the time of the tragedy.

Joe Abbess and Sunnah Summayah Khan - Facebook/Dorset Police

Joe Abbess and Sunnah Summayah Khan – Facebook/Dorset Police

She said of Abbess: ‘Emergency services were contacted by members of the public following reports that swimmers had experienced difficulty in the water following the suggestion that they had been caught in a counter-current.

“He was transferred to Royal Bournemouth Hospital and despite ongoing treatment he was confirmed dead in hospital.

“Joe has been officially identified by DC Hannah Webster via a family photo.

“An autopsy was performed on June 2 by Dr (Basil) Purdue. He confirmed a tentative cause of death as drowning. Samples were retained for further examination.

Ms Muller said Khan’s body had been identified by her father.

“She was a schoolgirl at the time of her death. The brief circumstances surrounding his death are that emergency services were contacted by members of the public following reports that swimmers had struggled in the water following suggestions they had been caught in a counter-current,” she said.

“She was treated by paramedics at the scene and transferred to Poole General Hospital. She was confirmed dead in hospital.

“She was identified by her father, Mr Khan. An autopsy was performed by Dr. Purdue who gave a tentative cause of death as drowning.

Khan’s mother, Stephanie Williams, paid tribute to her daughter on social media ahead of the hearing.

“On Wednesday I lost my beautiful daughter at Bournemouth beach. Sunnah was so loved and appreciated,” she said.

“No parent should ever have to go through what their dad and I are going through. We love you so much baby girl.

Khan’s school, Bourne End Academy, also paid a touching tribute on the day pupils returned after the mid-term break.

“As a student, Sunnah gained confidence in her first ten months at Bourne End. She developed a bold and happy personality that resonated throughout the school community,” a spokesperson said.

“Her energetic character and strong sense of loyalty meant that she had built strong and positive relationships with her peers and teachers. She will be sorely missed.”

A family friend told The Telegraph that Khan’s funeral took place at the Central Mosque in High Wycombe on Saturday afternoon.

He said his family and the local community were still “not more aware” of what exactly led to the children’s deaths.

The Dorset Belle boat was seized by police after the incident and a man in his 40s, described as being ‘on the water’ at the time of the deaths, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

Dorset Police confirmed the man, who was released under investigation on Thursday, was not known to the victims.

The Dorset Belle boat - Russell Sach

The Dorset Belle boat – Russell Sach

Abbess’s family said he was a trainee chef who was “kind and generous, loving and caring, hardworking and funny”.

He had enjoyed a day at the beach on Wednesday, his relatives said, thanking his friends and the emergency services who tried to save his life.

Rachael Griffin, Dorset’s coroner, said inquest proceedings were restricted while a police investigation was ongoing.

“In regards to the deaths of Joe and Sunnah, a police investigation is ongoing. I have already completed the proper paperwork and released Joe and Sunnah for funeral purposes,” she said.

“In regards to this ongoing investigation, I am unable to make any progress. It is very important that people do not speculate on the circumstances surrounding the death of Joe and Sunnah and allow the police investigation to continue.

She added: “My thoughts are very much with them (the families) at this difficult time following this tragedy. My thoughts are with those who witnessed or witnessed these traumatic events.”

Inquests have been adjourned until September 18.

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