Drowning tragedy as man is swept off sea wall

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EYEWITNESSES described their horror after seeing a man swept to his death off Blackpool Promenade.

Ian Walker was standing on the seawall at Cocker Square, North Shore, when he was dragged into the water by a large wave.

Despite a massive air and sea rescue the Londoner, who was in his 40s and visiting the resort, was overcome by the powerful waves.

Hotelier Alex McGlynn saw two men wearing shorts and carrying towels moments before the tragic accident at 11.40am on Saturday.

The boss of the Aloha Hotel, opposite the spot where the victim was pulled into the sea, told The Gazette: “I said to my wife, ‘if they’re going out there for a swim, they’re not coming back’.

“It was high tide and it was rough sea. When I saw the inshore Lifeboat coming in and not turning away, I pulled my kids away from the window. I knew it wasn’t going to be a pleasant result.”

Coastguard crews, Lifeboat teams, Beach Patrol officers and a rescue helicopter from RAF Valley in Anglesey where all drafted in.

Su Daintith, Watch Manager at Liverpool Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, said: “We believe the man was about to enter the water at the bottom of the seawall steps when he was swept off without any warning by a large wave which was a result of the overnight weather conditions.”

Conditions were difficult for the Lifeboat crews due to the strong wind and the fact it was close to high tide.

Lifeboat Helmsman Colin Lowe added: “It was just after high water when we launched and we managed to get the lifeboats into the sea straight from the new sea wall slipway.

“We located the man in the water near to Cocker Square and found him face down in the sea.”

Rescue crews attempted to resuscitate the man before he was taken in an ambulance to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Shocked holidaymakers watched the tragedy unfold.

Lily Whightman, 64, from Derbyshire, was walking on the Promenade with her friend Kathleen Starbuck, 62, when they saw the lifeboat crews pulling the man out of the sea.

Mrs Whightman said: “We were going for a paper and it really shook us up. I can’t understand the lad being out there.

“It made us ill when we saw it because you think of your own boys.

“The Lifeboat crews need medals because I couldn’t believe their speed - they were absolutely brilliant.”

Mrs Starbuck, from Chesterfield, added: “It’s a waste of young life and I can’t imagine what it would be like for the man’s family.”

The man, who has not been named by police, is the latest victim of Blackpool’s savage seas.

More than a dozen people have died in the seas off North Shore in the last decade.

Blackpool Beach Patrol confirmed safety chains were in place across all entrances to the beach when Saturday’s tragedy happened.

Coun Henry Mitchell, chairman of Blackpool Council’s public protection at the authority, said: “My heart goes out to the family of this man, but you have to ask what on earth he was doing going out there.

“The area is really bad, especially with the conditions as they were.

“The wave just came and took him over - we still need to educate people about the sea.

“I’m genuinely sorry for the family, but I can’t understand it. Any part of the Promenade can be bad when the tide is in.

“Every time we have a problem, it seems to be at Cocker Square. He would’ve had no chance.”

Mary Holliday, owner of the Manhattan Hotel, added: “There are plenty of notices up everywhere and people need to be responsible for their own behaviour.

“If we get people contemplating going into the sea we warn them against it.”

Mr McGlynn added: “If people don’t respect the sea then people will suffer from it.

“We have a policy here at the hotel where we print out the times of the tide so they know when to get off the beach.”