A coroner has called for greater warnings over the dangers of swimming at Loe Bar following the death of a holidaymaker on New Year’s Day.
Harry Swordy died after skinny dipping with friends on the beach at around 1am on January 1 this year.
His body was washed up on the beach at Porthleven the following day, where it was discovered by a member of the public around 8.40am.
Medical evidence at an inquest last Friday found that Mr Swordy, a teaching assistant from Ashburton, Newton Abbott, was killed by injuries consistent with immersion in rough sea, most significantly a broken neck that occurred before death. He also had water in his lungs.
He was identified by his tattoos, the word “Freedom” on his lower left arm and the picture of compass on his right wrist.
Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon heard that although there had been signs on the track leading to the beach, and also on the beach itself, warning “Caution, strong currents and deep water. Do not enter the sea at any time,” these were ignored by the group.
Friend Jonathan Burgess, who also went for a dip, said: “I recall seeing some sort of warning sign on the track but I did not read it.”
As a result, Dr Carlyon said she would be writing to the National Trust advising them to place leaflets about the dangers of swimming at the beach in all of their cottages and also in booking confirmation emails.
Mr Swordy, 27, was among a party of 23 friends who had been staying at Chyvarloe Bunkhouse, the end National Trust holiday cottage on a track leading down to the beach at Loe Bar.
Arriving from the Bristol and Guildford area from around 6.30pm on New Year’s Eve, the friends had cooked a meal and enjoyed a few drinks each, although witnesses from the party said no one had been drinking to excess.
It was just before 1am that it was suggested a few of the party should go down onto the beach to paddle in the shallow waves.
Although warned off by some, who were concerned that the sea was too rough, a group of six decided to continue with the plan.
Two stayed on the shore to watch, while another four stripped and entered the sea – among them was Mr Swordy.
Slightly ahead of the others, it was then that a large waved knocked him off his feet and under the water.
Mr Burgess, who was also among the skinny dippers, told the inquest in Truro: “As we entered a wave had just broken and washed up the beach. It seemed ok.
“A bigger wave broke and we saw Harry and [another friend] disappear. Then myself and Olly were knocked over.”
Although the remaining three managed to return to their feet, there was no sign of Mr Swordy – despite a 45-minute search by torchlight by the friends and a subsequent search all night and through the day by coastguards from Porthleven, Porthoustock, Mullion and Penzance, police, lifeboats and a helicopter from RNAS Culdrose.
Mr Burgess admitted: “It would be fair to say we did not appreciate how rough the sea was before we entered.”
In a statement to the inquest Marc Richard Thomas, coastguard sector manager for south Cornwall, described the conditions as “some of the worst I have seen in my career” with five to seven metre high waves and up to severe gale force nine winds.
However, he added: “Even on a relatively calm day you should not enter the water there. The beach slopes significantly down and there are strong undercurrents.”