Man dies after swimming at Cuckmere Haven

A 62-year-old man who was airlifted to hospital died after swimming with his son at Cuckmere Haven.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 9:01 am

Ralph Cooper got into difficulty in the sea at Cuckmere Haven, where the River Cuckmere meets the sea.

He died on November 3 last year after being flown to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton by the coastguard, an inquest heard.

A coroner at Eastbourne Town Hall on Thursday (April 15), heard Mr Cooper, a retired college lecturer from Chesterfield, was on a family break in Brighton when tragedy struck.

Eastbourne Town Hall (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190425-155043008

Susan Cooper, his wife, said they had gone to Brighton to spend some time with their two sons – Lee and Shaun. On November 3, the family went to Cuckmere Haven where Mr Cooper and Lee went swimming.

She said, “They were good swimmers and were both used to open water swimming.”

After some time in the sea Lee got out but the family soon realised Mr Cooper was ‘out of his depth’ and ‘he was being taken further out’.

Mrs Cooper said, “We kept losing site of him.”

Lee got back in the sea to try and retrieve his dad, but couldn’t bring him to shore due to the conditions.

Mrs Cooper said, “Lee tried to get him back to the beach but the pull of the current was too much and there was little movement from Ralph.

“They couldn’t get back. They were separated and Lee swam back to the beach.”

As this was happening, a couple nearby called the coastguard. The coastguard helicopter attended and pulled Mr Cooper out of the water.

James Rear, an ambulance crew member who treated Mr Cooper after the coastguard, said CPR was carried out but he had been in cardiac arrest in the water, which continued until he was handed over to hospital staff at 3pm.

Dr Leonieke Vlaanderen, the emergency registrar, said Mr Cooper, who had survived a rare thyroid cancer, wasn’t breathing when he arrived and his heart wasn’t showing any signs of electrical activity.

Dr Vlaanderen said Mr Cooper had been in cardiac arrest for more than two hours and it was not in his best interest to continue with resuscitation attempts. Mr Cooper was confirmed dead at 3.11pm.

East Sussex coroner Alan Craze ruled that Mr Cooper died due to misadventure, and called it an ‘enormous tragedy’.