‘Heartbroken’ parents pay tribute to boy, 17, and girl, 12, who died in Bournemouth beach tragedy
Joe Abbess, 17, and Sunnah Khan, 12, died after getting into difficulty in the water off Bournemouth beach
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The heartbroken family of a 17-year-old boy who tragically died after getting into difficulty in the water off Bournemouth beach have paid tribute to the “wonderful son and brother”.
Joe Abbess, from Southampton, died on Wednesday (31 May) following an incident in the water in Bournemouth. A 12-year-old girl named Sunnah Khan, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, also died in the incident.
Joe has been described by his family as a “fabulous young man” who was “king and generous, loving and caring, hardworking and funny”, in a family statement issued by Dorset Police.
His 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.”
Meanwhile, the mother of 12-year-old Sunnah also paid tribute to her “beautiful” daughter” in a statement on Twitter. Ms Stephanie Williams wrote: “On Wednesday I lost my beautiful daughter at Bournemouth beach. Sunnah was so well loved and well liked. No parent should ever have to go through what her dad and I are going through. We love you so much baby girl.”
A funeral for Sunnah was reportedly held over the weekend, with the 12-year-old girl laid to rest on Saturday (3 June), according to the BBC. More than 200 people are understood to have attended the ceremony at High Wycombe Mosques. Dorset Police have confirmed that victims Joe and Sunnah were not related.
Police said an inquest into both of the deaths is anticipated to be opened on Monday (5 June) subject to confirmation by HM Coroner.
A man in his 40s who was “on the water” at the time of the incident was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and was later released under investigation on Thursday (1 June) while police continue to carry out inquiries.
Dorset Police received a report from paramedics at about 4.30pm on Wednesday afternoon (31 May) of people requiring assistance on the beach near to Bournemouth Pier. Emergency services attended the scene and 10 people were recovered from the water. Joe and Sunnah both sustained “critical injuries” and sadly later died in hospital, while the other eight people were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.
The force has said it is keeping an “open mind” about the circumstances that led to the death of the two children and is appealing for witnesses to come forward, and to submit mobile phone or photographic footage that could help in the investigation to the police major incident portal.
Police have said that neither of the victims who died, nor or anyone else pulled from the sea at the time of the incident, was involved in any collision or contact with any vessel in the water.
It comes following “significant speculation” concerning a pleasure boat, which was in the area at the time of the tragedy off Bournemouth Pier. The force said the investigation is looking at all circumstances of the incident including weather, wind conditions and the state of the water at the time.
As there was a pleasure boat in the area of water, this is just one of several lines of inquiry, police said. The Dorset Belle sightseeing boat was impounded by Dorset Police after the incident.
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.”