Family’s safety plea after tragic sea death

Tragic: Andrew Mcgeown with his beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier Arnold.
Tragic: Andrew Mcgeown with his beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier Arnold.

The devastated family of Andrew Mcgeown are calling for the council to provide more life buoys for Scarborough after the 32-year-old was swept out to sea despite his best friend’s desperate attempt to save him.

The popular roofer drowned on the stormy evening of February 22 after he selflessly jumped in to rescue his beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Arnold, who was engulfed by a wave near the Spa.

Andrew Mcgeown.

Andrew Mcgeown.

An inquest heard how his close friend Tim Connor hung from the sea wall and clung onto him for what seemed like “an eternity” while horrified onlooker Trevor Fawley frantically searched for a life buoy to help pull him out.

However Mr Fawley was unable to find a rescue aid and by the time he returned, Andrew was gone.

Mr Fawley, of East Ayton, who had been stood watching the waves with his family when he spotted Andrew in trouble, told the inquest on Tuesday: “There was a slipway just at the side of him and we thought if we could get a life ring we can pull him up. The life rings were the only chance as his friend couldn’t get him out. I thought there was one near the old bathing pool and I ran around the whole area trying to find it but there wasn’t.

“I later discovered if I had gone just 10 metres towards the Spa there was one there. I know the council take them away because they get vandalised. That’s possibly what has happened.”

Flower tribute to Andrew Mcgeown on South Bay, near the Spa complex. Picture by Richard Ponter 150910a

Flower tribute to Andrew Mcgeown on South Bay, near the Spa complex. Picture by Richard Ponter 150910a

Speaking after the inquest, his heartbroken family and friends, including Mr Connor, told The Scarborough News they intended to lobby the council to provide more life bouys in the area.

Mr Connor said: “We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I can’t believe they take them down because people vandalise them and don’t replace them. What effort does it take to do that? It costs lives.

“We also want to campaign for the life rings to be lit up so you can see them in the dark. Even if it’s just a green LED light or something to make people aware of where they are - this goes for Marine Drive too and further afield.”

Giving evidence at the inquest, an emotional Mr Connor relived the devastating events of the tragic Sunday night in February.

He told coroner Michael Oakley he had been walking with Andrew and his dog near the beach huts, just south of the Spa complex, when tragedy struck.

“We knew the sea was rough. We check the tides as we have been going there for so long. We’re not daft. We knew we couldn’t get right down and it didn’t look as bad from where we were stood. I stopped for a toilet break and he carried on walking with the dog. When I looked up I saw a big wave come over the wall and suck the dog in. Within a heartbeat Andrew jumped into the sea.”

Mr Connor said the sand had shifted, which meant it was more than a six foot drop rather than waist height, but Andrew managed to climb out of the water onto a ledge and pass him the dog.

However, the waves kept knocking him off his feet despite his friend’s desperate attempts to haul him back on to the sea wall.

“That’s when I realised we were in a lot of trouble and I started screaming for help,” said Mr Connor.

“One person came and in this time I tried to use the waves to pull him out, but he’s a 15 stone roofer and was wearing a lot of layers and I just couldn’t get him up.

“The man told me to get out because it was too dangerous but I said I have to hold on to Andy, so I knelt back down and dug my knees into the sea wall.

“A few minutes later a big wave came and knocked me back. I got back up and I couldn’t see him.”

The whole incident lasted around 10 minutes, but to Mr Connor it felt like a lot longer.

“It seemed like an eternity,” he said. “He had been sucked in by the swell. The wave had come right over the wall and the force knocked me back. When I scrambled up and looked over I saw him pop up about 10 metres away but then roll over. I was shouting for him and trying to look for him.”

In response to Mr Oakley’s question about whether he thought it had been risky walking in the area on that particular night, Mr Connor, of New Parks Crescent, said: “Me and Andy had done it many times. I don’t know whether the dog had run off and he had chased him. But when I looked up I saw the dog go over and Andy jump in and I don’t think Andy expected it to be such a drop. If the sand had been a couple of feet higher it would have been a completely different story.”

RNLI volunteers, assisted by a helicopter, scoured the sea in darkness for around 40 minutes for the Cloughton man.

He was eventually recovered and rushed to Scarborough Hospital, but he was pronounced dead.

Recording a verdict of accidental death Mr Oakley, who described Mr Connor’s rescue attempt as “valiant” said: “A combination of further strong waves pulling him out and Mr Connor getting tireder and tireder in trying to get him up, they lost contact and his body has then been washed away into the sea.”