Men who died at Camber Sands were ‘strong and competent swimmers’, inquest hears

The five friends who died at Camber Sands in August. (Clockwise from top left) Inthushan Sriskantharasa, brothers Kobinathan and Kenugen Saththiyanathan, Kurushanth Srithavarajah and Nitharshan Ravi SUS-170314-171912001
The five friends who died at Camber Sands in August. (Clockwise from top left) Inthushan Sriskantharasa, brothers Kobinathan and Kenugen Saththiyanathan, Kurushanth Srithavarajah and Nitharshan Ravi SUS-170314-171912001

A group of five young men who died in the sea at Camber Sands last summer, have been described as strong and competent swimmers at an inquest in Hastings this week.

The five friends – Inthusan Sriskantharasa, 23, Gurushanth Srithavarajah, 27, Nitharsan Ravi, 22, and brothers Kenugen Saththiyanathan, 18, and Kobikanthan Saththiyanathan, 22, – had been visiting the beach near Rye on August 24 last year when the tragedy took place.

On the first day of what is expected to be a five-day inquest, which is also looking at the deaths of Brazillian 19-year-old Gustavo Silva Da Cruz and 36-year-old Mohit Dupar from Hayes in West London, pathologist Dr Brett Lockyer said all five men had died as a result of immersion (drowning).

In a statement read at the inquest, Arumakam Saththiyanathan, father of Kenugen and Kobikanthan, said his sons were fit and active young men. He said they both regularly played football and cricket and had learnt to swim as children in Sri Lanka, where they had both been born.

He said the brothers – known as Ken and Kobi – had both swam at Camber Sands on previous occasions and that Kobikanthan had visited Camber Sands at least three times in 2016 alone.

Kobikanthan had been working as a shop assistant while on a gap year from a business studies course at the University of Brighton while Kenugen had been studing for his A/S levels.

The inquest also heard from the family of 23-year-old Inthusan Sriskantharasa.

An orphan who saw his mother killed in a bombing raid as a young teenager, Inthusan had fled Sri Lanka as an asylum seeker in 2013. His father had died of a brain haemorrhage when he was nine years old and had been living with his sister and brother-in-law in Grays, Essex.

After living in the UK for three years, he had finally received his right to permanent residence in the UK in January 2016. At the time of his death he had been working as a shift manager at a Tesco store in Grays while preparing to study ICT at college.

In a statement read at the inquest, Inthusan’s uncle Sivapragasan Thavarasa described him as “a very talented, hard-working and respectful boy”.

In their evidence Mr Thavarasa and other family members said Inthusan had also been a “strong and confident swimmer”. They said he would regularly swim in the sea both in the UK and when living in a refugee camp as a child in Sri Lanka.

The oldest of the group, 27-year-old Gurushanth Srithavarajah, had also been born in Sri Lanka before moving to the UK with his family in 2000.

In a statement read at the inquest, Gurushanth’s sister Kabinjua Srithavarajah said: “We are a very close family. He and I were good friends. He had a love of comedy and would make everybody laugh.”

She also confirmed he could swim saying he had grown up living within 10m from the sea in Sri Lanka.

The family of Nitharsan Ravi, who was studying aeronautical engineering a University of Brighton, also spoke at the inquest.

His father Nagaratnam said his son could easily swim 100m and was ‘fit and healthy’, while other family members said he was a ‘very able swimmer’.

The inquest heard Nitharsan had been treated for a possible concussion the previous day, after he was injured in an alleged assault at his father’s shop.

The inquest also heard a statement from the father of Brazilian teenager Gustavo Silva De Cruz, who called for better safety at the beach: “Nobody said anything about safety or mentioned sandbars. I didn’t realise people could get stranded.

“There should have been better warning signs that people can see. It should be customary to tell you about sandbars.”

The inquest continues.

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