Page last updated at 20:41 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 21:41 UK

Tributes to sand death teenager

Craig Owen
Craig Owen, on holiday at Pembrey in 2007

Tributes have been paid to the teenager who died after a tunnel dug in sand dunes collapsed around him.

Craig Owen, 16, from Brymbo, Wrexham was trapped 5ft (1.52m) underneath several tonnes of sand at Cefn Sidan beach, Carmarthenshire on Sunday.

His head teacher said he was an "outstanding young man" and the school were expecting top grades in his GCSE results later this month.

Craig had been a week into a family holiday when the incident happened.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate Craig at the beach near Burry Port but he was pronounced dead in hospital.

An inquest was today opened and adjourned by coroner Phillip Rogers who told the family it would be "several months" before an investigation into Craig's death was completed.

Craig Owen
Losing is a student is the worst thing that could happen to a school community and everyone is stunned
Rob Ratcliffe, head teacher

His father Ronald Owen, 65, told the inquest that Craig's body was being returned to Wrexham for a funeral service and cremation, which will take place on Tuesday 12 August at 1330 BST at Pentre Bychan Crematorium.

Craig's uncle, Nigel Evans, said Ronald and Jayne Owen wanted to thank all the emergency services and medical teams who had helped them.

He called his nephew a "wonderful son, brother and uncle", adding: "My memories of Craig are about all the fun times we had on family holidays.

"Craig had a passion for life - an action person who took part in all family activities whether it be holidays, cycling, canoeing, skiing or just taking the lead at family functions.

"Craig was such a special person that no words are really adequate.

"The world was at his feet and so tragically taken away in a brief second of misjudgement."

Rob Ratcliffe, head teacher at Ysgol Bryn Alyn in Wrexham, said Craig was "an outstanding young man".

He said: "He was bright, funny, considerate and had a wide circle of friends.

"Losing is a student is the worst thing that could happen to a school community and everyone is stunned. Craig was one of the very few students to be given an A-grade for effort in every subject.

"His GCSE results are due out on 21 August and we are expecting top grades in all subjects. It is a real tragedy and having recently lost a son of my own I feel so much for Craig's parents and his family."

Craig had been one week into a three week holiday with his family and friends when the incident happened, the BBC understands.

He had been playing with a group of up to 15 other children in the dunes behind the beach in Pembrey Country Park.

The family was panicking, the friends were panicking - there was a lot of screaming and crying.
John Jones, Swansea Coastguard

The BBC has been told that family and friends had been digging two deep holes about a car length apart and had been trying to dig a tunnel to connect the two holes.

Craig was inside the tunnel - which had been dug out large enough to walk through - when it collapsed on top of him.

The alarm was raised at around 1910 BST and coastguards were on the scene within 15 minutes.

They said due to rainfall, the sand had become compact and dense.

Location map
The boy was pronounced dead after being flown to hospital in Swansea

Coastguard station officer John Jones who was in charge of the rescue operation, said one of the boy's friends had managed to uncover his head but his body was still buried when they arrived on the scene.

"Then the team set about digging out as much we we could to expose the chest so that the paramedic could give heart massage," he said.

"While that was going on we were trying to dig the body out and that carried on for about 10, 15 minutes.

"The family was panicking, the friends were panicking. There was a lot of screaming and crying."

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service sent two special units.

A spokeswoman said: "The young man was some five feet below the surface and although rescue crews had managed to clear the sand from his head and shoulders the youth was compressed under a considerable weight of sand.

"The emergency services would like to highlight the dangers of digging into unstable ground such as sand and the risk of sudden collapse, causing persons to become trapped.

"This applies to trenches, tunnels or small caves.

Coastguard John Jones on the top of the sand dune where a young boy died in Cefn Sidan beach, Pembrey
Coastguard John Jones on the top of the sand dune where a young boy died in Cefn Sidan beach, Pembrey

"Although many children and adults may play safely in sand at the sea shore or in sand dunes, deep excavations and tunnels are extremely dangerous and should not be attempted."

After Craig was dug out of the sand he was airlifted to Morriston hospital in Swansea.

Coastguards will be would be recommending the local council put up warning signs at Cefn Sidan beach, advising of the danger of tunnelling or digging in the dunes.

Mr Jones, who was the first officer on the scene yesterday, said he used to play in the dunes himself as a child.

"They are perfectly safe if people don't take unnecessary risks," he said.

A group of the Craig's friends visited the scene of his death on Monday afternoon, leaving floral tributes.

The police have also filled in the tunnel and the beach's blue flag has been flying at half mast as a mark of respect for the teenager.

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