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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Britons drown off Portugal coast
Ambulance
The bodies being taken away in an ambulance
Three Britons and a German have drowned off the Algarve coast in south-west Portugal while trying to save their children from strong currents.

The children were washed ashore with minor injuries but two of them lost both their parents, while another two lost their mother, officials said.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the couple who died were Robert and Deborah Fry, from Wootton Bassett, Wilts.

The other dead Briton was named as Barbara Jean Dinsmore.

Three other UK adults are in hospital following the incident near Sagres.

The civil governor of Faro, Isilda Gomes, said: "Everything was done to save these people, but we were not able to save more lives."

She said an aunt was travelling to be with the two orphaned children, while the father of another child was in hospital.

The children were among a group of about six youngsters, all of whom are now receiving counselling.

Popular with surfers

Emergency services said a number of families had been swimming at Praia do Tonel when some of the children got into difficulties near a large rock in the bay at about 1700 local time (1700 BST) on Monday.

There is a current and some deep waters that caused them to get in distress
Commander Pedro Pereira
Maritime Authority

Commander Pedro Pereira, of the Maritime Authority in nearby Lagos, told BBC News 24: "The waters around the rock where they go to swim... it's relatively calm but they have very strong winds, very strong currents."

The beach faces the Atlantic and is popular with surfers owing to its reputation for strong waves.

However, the current could pull people out to sea more easily than swimmers realised, Mr Pereira said.

"There is a current and some deep waters that caused them to get in distress.

"They asked for help and all the families that are with them ran to help them, also some people that are close by."

Lifeboats

There were no lifeguards on duty, as the official summer bathing season ended several weeks ago on the coast.

Several lifeboats, a helicopter and other emergency services were scrambled as soon as the alarm was raised.

Sagres beach - Photo: Dimitri Kireyev
The beach is popular among surfers Photo: Dimitri Kireyev

One of those who died was picked up by a lifeboat and the other three were washed ashore by waves.

But local emergency services were unable to revive any of them.

A local surfer involved in the rescue told the BBC: "A girl was on top of a rock and I told her to jump down onto my surfboard."

The Foreign Office spokeswoman said next of kin were being informed.

No further details were available, she said.

'Terrible tragedy'

The British ambassador had contacted the civil governor, and the British consul in Portimao was travelling to the area, she added.

Holiday company The Vigia Group described the drownings as a "terrible tragedy" and said it was offering support to those affected.

Local villa owner Peter Lucek said he did not consider the spot to be particularly dangerous.

"I wouldn't use the word treacherous.

"The area is very popular with surfers and it can be rough, but I've been travelling down there and using this beach for over 20 years and ...I can't imagine the circumstances that would lead to such a horrible incident."

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Emergency services at the scene



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