Inquest warning of tidal currents at Cromer

A coroner yesterday issued a clear warning to anyone, including strong swimmers, thinking of putting themselves in danger at the seaside after the drowning of a 33-year-old father in the summer.

A CORONERon Tuesday issued a clear warning to anyone, including strong swimmers, thinking of putting themselves in danger at the seaside after the drowning of a 33-year-old father in the summer.

Lee Griffin and another man jumped into the sea from Cromer pier after fishing and drinking cider with friends on the afternoon of July 30. While his friend managed to make it safely back to shore, Mr Griffin, from Roughton, fell victim to strong currents concentrated on the groyne nearest to the east side of the pier and disappeared below the water.

A large-scale rescue mission, described by coroner William Armstrong as "immediate and very impressive", was launched. Mr Griffin's body was found shortly after midnight, six hours after he had disappeared from view.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Armstrong said: "Lee died as a direct consequence of his own decision to go into the water. What he did I am told is not uncommon.

"It should serve as a warning to others minded to do what Lee was doing on that day.

"Being a strong swimmer doesn't make any difference in a situation of this kind."

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Mr Armstrong said he was keen to see all possible lessons learned from the tragedy.

He will approach North Norfolk District Council officials and ask them to "assess whether more steps are necessary to bring the dangers of the sea in this particular area to the attention of the public", but he did not make any criticisms of the council.

The inquest, at Cromer Magistrates Court with Mr Griffin's family and friends in attendance, heard evidence from Cromer lifeboat operations manager Richard Leeds. Mr Leeds had spoken to Mr Griffin briefly while he was in the sea and hanging on to the pier metalwork.

Mr Griffin was confident about making his way back to the beach, but after being pushed by the currents towards the groyne it became clear both to Mr Leeds and others there was a problem.

Mr Leeds called the coastguard, after which police, ambulance crew, four lifeboats, shore based lifeboat crew, lifeguards, coastguard teams, a helicopter and members of the public got involved in the attempted rescue.

Mr Leeds said the area around the groyne in question could be "very hazardous" and explained there were warning signs around the groyne and on the pier.

Cromer lifeboat chairman Tony Webster said the timing of Mr Griffin's jump into the sea "could not have been worse" because it was at 6.10pm, a few minutes after the beach lifeguards finished their daily shift at 6pm.

"They keep an eye on the pier and I felt if it had been when they were on shift, they would have seen or heard the splash of the two men going in and got out on their boards," said Mr Webster.

Mr Webster added that after Mr Griffin had got into trouble and disappeared, the efforts of the searchers were enormous.

"Everything that could have been done was done," he said.

After the inquest, the council's interim corporate asset manager Steve Hems said: "We worked with the RNLI to agree an appropriate level of signage, and where the signs should go.

"Immediately after this incident, we and the RNLI looked again to assess whether the signage was as it should be. The RNLI does an assessment of all the safety measures before and after each season, and of course we'll have the findings of this inquest very much in mind when that's done next year."

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