Stephanie Williams, the mother of a 12-year-old daughter named Sunnah Khan, who tragically drowned off Bournemouth beach, shared how the devastating loss has profoundly affected her family.
Sunnah is believed to have been caught in a rip current near the town’s main pier, leading to her unfortunate demise, the BBC reported.
Another teenager, Joe Abbess, 17, from Southampton, also lost his life in the incident on May 31, and eight others sustained injuries.
Williams expressed that the past three months had been incredibly difficult, describing the experience as “horrendous.”
She conveyed the heart-wrenching feeling of seeing her child in such a condition and how it has been a challenging ordeal for her family.
Reflecting on that fateful day, she vividly recalled it as a seemingly normal and pleasant day.
Sunnah, along with her brother and another sister, had gone to the beach while her youngest daughter was at home with chickenpox.
Williams received pictures from her son at the beach but hadn’t suspected anything amiss. However, her day took a devastating turn when she received a phone call from someone informing her of the tragic incident.
Williams expressed that her family is still grappling with the loss of Sunnah, likening the feeling to the panic parents experience when momentarily losing sight of their child in a crowded place.
She shared that each of her children is coping differently, with her son experiencing added trauma as he was also in distress in the water, and her middle daughter struggling with the loss of her sister, who she had shared a room with.
Regarding the youngest daughter, aged five, Williams mentioned that she doesn’t fully comprehend the situation. She emphasised that her family’s grief has torn them apart, and they all deeply miss Sunnah.
Williams pointed out that when she and her husband returned to the beach a few weeks ago, they were alarmed by the sight of young children swimming far from shore without adult supervision and the absence of signs warning of the dangers.
Consequently, she contacted Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole Council (BCP) to express concerns about the lack of water safety signage on the beach.
She emphasised the need for better education on water safety, citing Sunnah’s case where she was only in water up to her chest, which did not appear deep, yet it proved fatal.
She stressed that such life-saving information is not adequately taught in schools, even though children are taught to swim.
In response, BCP said that they have taken a coordinated multi-agency approach and implemented immediate actions since the incident in May.
They have collaborated with Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to determine lifeguard cover and increased safety messages over seafront tannoys. Additional banners and digital media near Bournemouth and Boscombe piers have been used to promote RNLI’s Float to Live campaign.
However, BCP acknowledged that despite their efforts, the sea carries inherent risks, and conditions can change rapidly, making the complete elimination of drowning risk impossible.