Teacher who went skinny dipping swept away by huge wave
Published 20/06/2014 | 14:22
A teaching assistant who went skinny dipping with friends to celebrate the New Year died when he was swept out to sea by a "huge wave", an inquest heard.
Harry Jack Swordy, 27, and three friends stripped off and ran towards the waves at Loe Bar Beach, near Porthleven in Cornwall, in the first hours of 2014.
But as the group, who had gathered to ring in the New Year at a nearby holiday lodge, entered the water they were engulfed by a large wave - knocking them off their feet.
Three of the friends managed to scramble ashore but Mr Swordy was washed out to sea. His body was discovered on a nearby beach at Porthleven the following morning.
Cornwall Coroner's Court heard Loe Bar Beach is known locally as a an "extremely dangerous place to swim" and has numerous warning signs stating not to enter the water.
One RNLI rescuer described conditions at the time as "some of the worst I have ever seen in my career", with waves of between 15 and 21 feet and "severe gale" winds of force nine.
Dr Emma Carlyon, coroner for Cornwall, ruled Mr Swordy, who lived in Newton Abbot, Devon, died as a result of an accident "on or about" January 2 this year.
"Harry Swordy was knocked over by a large wave between 1 and 1.30 on January 1 2014 while skinny dipping with friends while on holiday," Dr Carlyon said.
"Despite search and rescue attempts, his body was not found until 8.47 on January 2 at Porthleven Beach, Helston.
"The sea conditions were extremely rough and there was signage on the beach advising against swimming in the sea."
A post-mortem examination found Mr Swordy suffered a broken neck and multiple abrasions to his head and body. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system.
Dr Carlyon recorded his cause of death as "injuries consistent with immersion in rough seas".
The group of 23 friends, including Mr Swordy, his sister Grace Swordy and girlfriend Helen McNabb, arrived at Penrose Bunkhouse from 6pm on December 31 last year.
Jonathan Burgess, a friend of Mr Swordy and the boyfriend of his sister, Grace, said the group had met up to celebrate New Year for the past four to five years.
Mr Burgess said the friends enjoyed a meal at around 10pm and consumed a few pints of ale and a shot of tequila each as they saw in 2014.
"Around this time I talked about the idea of going to the beach for a dip in the sea," Mr Burgess, a landscape architect, told the inquest. "Some of our group advised against it due to the sea conditions."
However, at around 1pm, Mr Swordy, Mr Burgess, Oliver Kingshott and James Hanley left the lodge and walked to Loe Bar Beach.
"At the end of the track, where it meets the beach, myself, Harry Swordy, Oliver Kingshott and James Hanley stripped off our clothes so we were naked and ran towards the sea," Mr Burgess said.
"As we entered the water a wave had just broken. Then a big wave broke and I saw Harry and James disappear into the white wash. Moments later myself and Oliver were also hit."
Mr Burgess said he, Mr Kingshott and Mr Hanley were able to stand up quickly but they could not see Mr Swordy. The group began searching for him and emergency services were called.
"It is fair to say we didn't appreciate how rough the sea was before we entered," he added. "I would describe myself as a medium to strong swimmer, I don't think Harry was a strong swimmer."
Mr Burgess said Mr Swordy had been the first to enter the sea, so was at a deeper point when the waves hit.