Mum describes terrifying moment children were swept out to sea in Dymchurch

Two children who got into serious difficulty in the water off Dymchurch beach have been discharged from hospital. Adam-James Biggs, 9, and 12-year-old April Carr were swept to sea because of the strong current at around 3pm yesterday (July 28). The pair were playing and swimming together when they were dragged deeper into the water away from the shoreline.

Adam's mum Chloe Shopland, 28, was enjoying a day at the beach with her family and a friend.

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'They just kept getting swept and swept'

"They were just in the water swimming, having fun," Chloe told KentLive.

"They drifted sideways and I had already told them once to come back over and stay in line with a silver truck on the beach which had donkeys in it. "I told them to stay in line with that because I was sat just in front of there. They kept drifting to the left and I kept going over and telling them 'come back this way and stay in line so I can tell where you are'.

"My other sister Callie had stayed where she could stand and wouldn't go anywhere above her waist line, but Adam and April were just that little bit further out. "And they just kept getting swept and swept."

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Adam and April, who is Chloe's sister, were both trying their hardest to make their way back to land, but they were struggling to swim against the tide. She said: "April said she was trying to push Adam forward, which was obviously pushing her further out.

"She was trying her best to save her nephew more than herself, bless her. "April was trying to kick Adam back to shore because I think she knew how far she was going out." As the two youngsters were being pulled out to sea and drifting apart, another family had just arrived at the beach.

Kirstie Cloke and her husband Gavin Cloke travelled down to Dymchurch from Bexleyheath for the week to stay at a holiday park with their children, including their 16-year-old son Harry. They had just arrived at the beach and were all walking along the coastline when the alarm was raised that April and Adam were struggling and fast becoming cut adrift. Gavin and Harry immediately decided to try and help the children, while numerous members of the public called 999 to notify the Coastguard of the desperate situation.

Mum describes terrifying moment children were swept out to sea in DymchurchGavin Cloke, 40, and his son Harry Cloke, 16, helped rescue the two children from the sea

"My husband went in first and went to the girl who was the furthest out," Kirstie said.

"And then an older gentleman next to us swam out to the boy. My son was running around trying to find a lifeguard and eventually went in to help too. "Gavin just stayed out there with the little girl, kept her talking and afloat and reassuring her until the helicopter got there.

"Harry took an inflatable in to try to give to my husband to pull her in because he physically couldn't get hold of her." Chloe recalls also trying to swim out to her son and sister, but wasn't able to make it far and could only watch on helplessly.

'It felt like the longest time in the universe'

Mum describes terrifying moment children were swept out to sea in DymchurchThe incident happened at Dymchurch beach

"I can't remember exact times, but it was about 15-20 minutes that we were stood there trying to get to them out in the sea," she said. "But obviously it felt like the longest time in the universe.

I tried jumping in but my body just gave up on me. "I tried to go out and swim to them but I couldn't. I literally couldn't even move against the water.

"And then that made me feel even worse because I thought 'if I can't even fight against the water, how are my babies going to fight against that?'" Eventually, Harry and another man managed to bring a "semi-conscious" Adam to safety on the beach.

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'How she kept afloat, I'll never know'

But April was still stranded and struggling, although Gavin continued to keep her company nearby in the freezing cold water. Kirstie described how every time Gavin tried to reach out "they were both getting pushed further out." 

"All the little girl kept saying to Gavin was that she couldn't swim," she added. "She kept her head afloat the whole time as well and she was talking back. Gavin just kept talking to her."

Mum describes terrifying moment children were swept out to sea in DymchurchThe Coastguard pulled April Carr, 12, to safety from the sea and into the rescue helicopter

The Coastguard helicopter then arrived and a rescue team member was lowered on a winch into the sea to bring young April to safety before she was airlifted to hospital.

Meanwhile, Gavin managed to swim back to shore and Adam was taken to hospital by road with his mum. The Littlestone RNLI lifeboat, police and paramedics were also called to assist. Chloe admitted she's still "in shock" after watching on desperately as her son and sister were rescued from the sea.

"It was so much for me to take, I didn't know who was who at the time," she said.

'If it wasn't for him, it could've been so much worse'

"I am very thankful (to Gavin). If it wasn't for him, I think April would have probably panicked and it could have been so much worse." April was at the hospital for an hour before being joined by the rest of her family.

Kirstie says both Gavin and Harry "just brushed off" their efforts to rescue the two children "like they hadn't done anything".

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Mum describes terrifying moment children were swept out to sea in Dymchurch

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She said: "I personally think if he hadn't gone out there, the little girl would have drowned. "It doesn't bear thinking about, it was awful. Even Gavin struggled in the current to be honest.

"It was probably best that what he did was keep her talking and reassuring her that help was coming. "Gavin has got children of that age, so it's just natural to do it for him. We've got a little girl exactly the same age, so we wouldn't want someone to leave her out there like that.

He would never have left her on her own." Kirstie added: "A lot of people are saying they shouldn't have been out there, but they got caught up, they didn't swim out there. "They got caught up and they couldn't get back."

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Chloe said both her children were discharged from the William Harvey Hospital at around 6.30pm later the same day and are both "perfectly fine now" and have spent the day resting and recovering.

But she has bemoaned the lack of warning about the strong current in the sea at the beach. "People need to be aware," she said. "There were no signs on that beach to say that they had undercurrent. "I didn't see any signs or anything like that otherwise I wouldn't have allowed them to go in the water anyway.

"And there were no lifeguards. At Camber Sands, there are lifeguards there constantly. There were no lifeguards there in Dymchurch."

Signage 'is in place' at Dymchurch beach, say council

Mum describes terrifying moment children were swept out to sea in DymchurchFolkestone and Hythe District Council says there are signs in place at the beach - one in particular warns users to 'beware of tides'

A spokesman for Folkestone & Hythe District Council, which is responsible for Dymchurch beach, said: "We have a responsibility for reasonable duty of care for members of the public that access the beach for leisure.

"Although any incident is regrettable, we have no information to suggest there are any reoccurring issues in this area. "Signage is in place across our coastline, including at Dymchurch - these can be found at our car parks and staged along the promenade. "We are always reviewing whether the safety messaging can be further enhanced with additional signage and information on our website.

"There are no lifeguards along the Folkestone & Hythe coastline except for the volunteers at Sunny Sands beach in Folkestone at weekends."

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