TWO men who risked their lives in an attempt to rescue a mother and her son from a rip current off the Cornish coast have been praised by police.
The woman, who was in her 50s, is believed to have tried to rescue one of her sons who was swept out to sea off Northcott Mouth beach, near Bude, on Monday afternoon.
She was pulled unconscious from the water and later confirmed dead after being flown to North Devon District Hospital at Barnstaple. The boy, however, survived.
Lifeguard cover on the rural beach had been lifted, the day before the tragedy.
Police have praised the actions of two men who jumped into the water to try and save the mother and her son before emergency services arrived.
Sergeant Lynden Hughes, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "Had these two members of the public not done what they did, then we would have probably been looking at a more serious incident involving the young boy as well. They really did take their life into their own hands and assisted in the most admirable way."
One of the men was rescued, along with the boy, by the inshore lifeboat which had been sent from Bude. The other is thought to have made it back to the beach unaided.
RNLI lifeguards, who had rushed from a neighbouring beach, pulled the woman ashore and attempted to revive her. She was airlifted to hospital by a helicopter from RMB Chivenor, in North Devon, but could not be saved. Her two boys, thought to be aged 11 and 13, were unharmed and cared for by police until a family member arrived in Bude.
The RNLI said that lifeguards patrolled on the beach from July 7 until September 2.
Steve Instance, the RNLI lifeguard inspector, said Northcott was a quiet rural beach designated for peak-season coverage only.
"Lifeguards patrol there in July and August through to the first week of September when local schools go back. Sunday was the end of the season for that beach," he said. "It is just unfortunate they have chosen to visit this beach the day after the lifeguards finished for the year."
Mr Instance said four other local beaches, which have more visitors, have lifeguards on duty further into September.
Margaret Frost, who works at the Rustic Tea Garden on the beach at Northcott Mouth, claimed the lifeguards should be patrolling for a longer period of time.
She said: "I just feel that our lifeguards should be here for another fortnight. It doesn't matter who it is who is involved. If it is someone in the sea and a tragedy happens like that it is terrible. It is a mother and we have two boys now who haven't got a mum anymore and we have a husband who doesn't have a wife anymore.
"It is a tragedy. Times have altered – it used to be quieter here in September, but in the last five years the place has become a lot more popular for tourists. We need more cover so that tragedies like this don't happen."