The mother of a 12-year-old girl killed on Bournemouth beach says police still haven’t explained how her daughter died.
Sunnah Khan had been swimming near a pier with her siblings when she was pulled under the water on Wednesday afternoon, May 31.
She, along with 17-year-old Joe Abbess – who had been at the beach with friends – was fatally injured and later died in hospital despite the best efforts of medics and lifeguards.
Authorities say Sunnah drowned but her mother Stephanie Williams, 32, has been left frustrated as she says she still hasn’t been given full answers over the circumstances of her death.
It comes as Dorset Police said it is keeping ‘open mind’ as to the causes of the tragedy and officers are also looking into the weather, wind conditions and state of the water at the time.
The tragedy claimed the life of 12-year-old Sunnah Khan, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
An air ambulance takes off from Bournemouth beach after two children were fatally hurt on Wednesday, May 31
This is despite arresting a man in his 40s on suspicion of manslaughter – who has since been released under investigation – and impounding the 78ft Dorset Belle pleasure boat which was in the area at the time.
Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Corrigan said: ‘We continue to keep an open mind around the circumstances that have led to the tragic death of two young people in the water off the beach.
‘Our thoughts remain with the families of those young people.
‘As with any investigation of this nature, we have to look at all factors connected to the state of the water. One of those lines of enquiry has involved the pleasure boat, which was in the area at the time of the incident. These enquiries also include examining wind, other weather and general coastal conditions at the time.
‘We are working with experts from partner agencies to understand all of the factors and this will take time to establish.
‘We continue to support the families of Joe and Sunnah and they are being kept updated by specially trained family liaison officers about our investigation.
‘I would ask that the police investigation is allowed to continue without further unhelpful speculation around circumstances of the incident, and that there is respect for the families of those who have died so tragically.
‘I would continue to appeal to anyone at the beach at the time who witnessed the incident to come forward and talk to us.’
The force added it expects inquests into the deaths of Sunnah and Joe to open on Monday, June 5.
Police have impounded the pleasure boat Dorset Belle (pictured) following the tragedy, but have said they are keeping an open mind about what happened
The teenage boy who died while swimming off Bournemouth Beach was named on Sunday as Joe Abbess
A second air ambulance takes off from the beach after the half-term tragedy on June 1
One of the men was pulled from the water and had to be given CPR on the beach by lifeguards before being taken away by air ambulance
Stephanie, who is an A&E nurse, told the Sun that she had received no further information about her daughter’s death.
She told the publication: ‘It’s just really difficult to accept. Somebody has potentially caused Sunnah to be taken away from us.
‘The police have only told us what they said in a statement. The cause of death was drowning, there were no other injuries.
‘We don’t actually know how it came about. I don’t understand how somebody can be released on bail for double manslaughter. How does that work?’
The 12-year-old had been at the beach with her dad Asim Khan and her siblings in the half-term break, and is thought to have been chest-deep in the sea when she was pulled under.
Stephanie added: ‘It happened in front of my two young children and they’re traumatised.
‘Asim is very private and doesn’t want to speak to people about it, but I don’t want this to happen to anyone else – it shouldn’t happen.
‘One death is too many. I don’t want anyone to have to go through having to lose their child in such a traumatic and awful way.
‘Drowning is not a quick process. She must’ve been terrified. I don’t want any other family to have to relive what we’ve just been through, and will continue to go through until we die.’
It is believed huge waves caused by a passing boat, along with a powerful current, caused swimmers to struggle – among them was 17-year-old Joe Abbess, who was also fatally hurt.
Joe, who attended Oasis Academy in Southampton, had gone with friends to Bournemouth last Wednesday during half-term.
His family said they are ‘heartbroken and devastated’ at the loss of a ‘fabulous young man’ and ‘talented trainee chef’ who was enjoying a day at Bournemouth beach when he died.
A friend of Joe’s said on Sunday: ‘He was a great lad, he was very popular.
‘He’d gone to Bournemouth with eight mates last week because it was half-term. They’d gone gone down to the beach and Joe and a few others were in the sea.
‘All of a sudden there was a commotion and people were struggling in the water.
‘Joe was brought out of the sea on to the beach and paramedics were trying to revive him but they couldn’t do anything.
‘We haven’t got the full details yet on what happened but his death has left a lot of people heartbroken.
‘His family, as you’d expect are not in a good way, and it’s hit a lot of people very hard.’
Lifeguards hurried into the water by Bournemouth Pier after a group of young people got into difficulty in the sea at around 4.30pm Wednesday
A 12-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy have died after a major incident took place in the water on Bournemouth beach
Thousands of people were enjoying the sunny weather before being asked to leave the beach by police
In a statement released through Dorset Police, Joe’s family said: ‘We are heartbroken and devastated at the death of our Joe. He was a wonderful son and brother who is sadly missed.
‘His family and friends will always love him and we are incredibly proud of the fabulous young man he was. He was kind and generous, loving and caring, hardworking and funny.
‘Joe was a talented trainee chef, with a bright future ahead of him. We were privileged to have him in our lives for 17 years and we are so sorry he will never fulfil his dreams and ambitions.
‘He was enjoying a day at the beach on Wednesday and we would like to thank his friends and all of the emergency services who helped him, when this tragedy unfolded.’
Lifeguards hurried into the water by Bournemouth Pier after a group of young people got into difficulty in the sea at around 4.30pm Wednesday.
A further eight were treated by the ambulance service at the scene for non-life-threatening injuries.
A subsequent investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy and a man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion on manslaughter but later released under investigation.
More than 200 people attended Sunnah’s funeral at the Central Mosque in High Wycombe yesterday.
A friend said: ‘She will be missed by everyone, she was very popular and her death will leave a hole that will be impossible to fill.
‘She had so much more to look forward to. She was an angel.’
Mohammed Rafiq, 65, trustee at the Wycombe Islamic Mission and Mosque said: ‘What happened is tragic for the family. They are very hard-working and well respected here, this is a close-knit community.
‘There were hundreds of people who came to the funeral, the queue was overflowing.’
Following her death one relative of the 12-year-old said: ‘She was an absolute force of nature, liked by all and loved by so many.
‘She will be so sorely missed by her parents, siblings and friends. There are no words to describe the hole she has left in all of our hearts but we will remember her every day for the rest of our lives.’
Meanwhile her friends were left devastated by her death, with one posting on social media: ‘You were too young to be taken from this world. My best friend and my reason to wake up every day.’
A second added: ‘My life will not be complete without her. I feel so empty and a big hold in my heart, I love her too much for her to leave.’
A girl of 12 and a boy of 17 were pulled from the sea after ‘getting into difficulties’ on Wednesday and later died in hospital. Pictured: Bournemouth Pier
There has been an increased police presence at the beach since Wednesday’s incident
Two eyewitnesses at the scene of the tragedy described how paramedics attending assessed which individuals required urgent treatment.
Iona Hunter, 14, and Kaiden Andre, 15, swam into the water when they spotted a man and woman who were in difficulty, The Times reported.
One said: ‘[The lifeguard] asked if we were sure he was drowning because there were people who were actually drowning.’
Ross Hunter, Iona’s father and former lifeguard who had taught her lifesaving skills, said he was immensely proud of his daughter.
He said: ‘I feel very proud of her. I think it’s very dangerous what she did but all that being said she is a very good swimmer and I think it’s a testament to who she is.
‘No one knows how they would react in that situation but she was governed by her heart.’
Following the incident the pleasure boat Dorset Belle, which normally cruises near Bournemouth beach, was impounded by the authorities and put under guard in Poole Harbour, police said.
The 78ft vessel operates hourly and can carry up to 80 people, but is now under guard five miles away from where it usually operates off Bournemouth Pier.
It is thought the children got into difficulty in the water off the beach, described as ‘dangerous’ by the boat’s former owner last night.
It remains unclear what exactly caused the incident, which caused RNLI lifeguards to swarm into the sea after 10 people got into trouble, but a father of one of the teenagers who survived the horrific incident said it was a ‘rip tide’ that ‘took them out’.