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Man drowns on West Wittering beach rescuing 5yr old child
Saturday 26 May 2012 - 11am
A man has tragically drowned at West Wittering today whilst rescuing a child, police have said.
The 32-year-old had gone into the sea at around 11am to rescue the youngster in difficulty on a rubber ring. He managed to get the child to safety but it sadly resulted in him drowning.
Police update
On Saturday 26 May at 12.10pm the ambulance service informed Sussex Police of a report of an incident on West Wittering beach. A 32-year old man from Sutton, Surrey, and a Guildford woman, entered the water after a five-year old girl not known to them was being carried away from the beach by the tide. The man was able to reach the child and pass her on to the woman who was able to bring the child safely back to her family on the shore. Tragically the man was unable to reach the shore himself and was recovered unconscious from the water by others at the scene. Despite efforts by members of the public and emergency services to resuscitate the man he was pronounced dead at the scene. The family of the man have requested that their privacy is respected at this time. We hope to release his identity soon.
The girl was on the beach with her family who are from North West London. The Guildford woman was with a family group separate from those of the deceased and the child.
A Sussex Police spokesman said- "It is clear that this was a tragic accident, and there is no further police investigation. The matter is being referred to the Coroners Officer."
Police update - 29 May 2012
The man who died whilst saving a five-year old girl from the water at West Wittering beach on Saturday 26 May is named today as 32-year old Plamen Petkov, of Westmoreland Drive, Sutton, Surrey. A postmortem held today at St Richards Hospital, Chichester, found the cause of death to be drowning, and an inquest has been formally opened and adjourned.
Family tribute to Plamen PetkovPlamen Petkov
Date Added:- 30 May 2012
Police reference:PR39272/2012

This is a copy of a Release, together with a family photo, that Sussex Police issued on Wednesday 30 May on behalf of the family of Plamen Petkov who died at West Wittering beach on Saturday 26 May,
A family spokesperson said: "We are all incredibly sad to have lost such a special person from our lives but we are also immensely proud that Plamen was able to save the life of this young child.
"His display of concern for others was typical of the man we all knew and the way he lived his life.
"Plamen always made time to help others, and as a family we have all been touched by his kindness and generosity which he displayed each day.
"We are grateful for the messages of support from everyone Plamen came into contact with both in and out of work - he leaves a huge gap in our lives and will be missed by us all.
"We would like to thank his friend and the woman for the huge effort they made to try to save Plamen's life and to people for the kind comments made about Plamen and his part in returning the child safely to the shore.
"In response to the many people who have been moved by his brave act, the family would like to release his name and picture to be commemorated. We also appreciate suggestions to award Plamen with a posthumous honour for his actions.
"In these extremely difficult days, Plamen's family want to use this unfortunate opportunity to stress their concern with the dangerous waters like those at West Wittering around the UK coast and are keen to call for additional positive safety measures to be put in place, such as stationed lifeguards, and to not just rely on signage in order to prevent future tragedies of a similar nature occurring again.
"The family are looking at how they might support the local community in this area who share this concern in the hope that these changes might be an appropriate way of honouring Plamen's name and courageous act."
The family has also released the following version of events which took place on Saturday:

  • Plamen Petkov is British citizen of Bulgarian origin.
  • On Saturday 26th May, at around noon, Plamen Petkov and his friend were walking along the shoreline of West Wittering beach when they spotted a mother shouting for help.
  • Her child was adrift on an inflatable ring being blown out to sea or dragged by the current.
  • Plamen was the first to react, on a crowded beach, diving in without second thoughts - followed by his friend and another woman behind. When Plamen reached the child, she jumped from the inflatable into the arms of Plamen - who by this point was exhausted and trying to keep the child's head above water.
  • Plamen's friend was next to reach them. By this point Plamen was holding the child above the water as he was being dragged under by the current and his friend tried to pull him to the surface and helped to support the child until the women arrived. She took the child and swam with her to the shore while Plamen's friend brought him to the shore unconscious
  • When they arrived at the shore the woman started the attempt to resuscitate him with CPR until help arrived. The attempt continued for around 40 minutes until an air-ambulance arrived but they were unfortunately unable to save him.

    Editors note:-
    We would wish to echo the comments made in an EMail sent by Pearl Whitcombe who witnessed the events following the rescue and in the statement above.
    " 40 MINUTES until help arrived "

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