A 14-year-old girl has died and her teenage family member is in a critical condition after they were rescued from the sea on the Essex coast.
The girl and her relative, an 18-year-old man, were pulled from the water after coming into difficulty in Clacton, close to the pier, on Thursday afternoon.
Police said another girl, 15, who is related to the pair, was also rescued but that she is expected to make a full recovery.
Witnesses described “distressing” scenes as lifeguards and paramedics scrambled to help the three teenagers after they were spotted struggling near Marine Parade at about 1.40pm.
The incident happened little more than one year after a 15-year-old boy drowned near the pier.
Several ambulance teams, including a helicopter, along with police and lifeboats responded as the three relatives were treated before being taken to hospital.
Acting Detective Superintendent Paul Wells said: “At this early stage, we believe that three teenagers got into difficulty at sea and were recovered from the water, close to Clacton Pier.
“A teenage boy and girl were taken to hospital in a critical condition.
“Of these, a 14-year-old girl has died in hospital, an 18-year-old man is stable but remains in a critical condition, and a 15-year-old girl is expected to make a full recovery.
“The three casualties are related. Immediate family members have been informed and are at hospital.”
Several members of the public aided the rescue effort and two other people were also treated at the beach, but did not need to be taken to hospital.
Witness Becky Bryant, 40, told PA: “I saw two people being pulled from the sea and lifeguards trying to do CPR until the paramedics turned up.
“Everyone tried to take turns doing the CPR while the lifeboat went out again and retrieved the third person, who seemed not to be in such a bad way.
“It was so distressing, everyone was trying to do what they could – lifeguards, air ambulance, they truly worked as a team.”
Ms Bryant, a carer from Wivenhoe, said the three teenagers were with a group of up to 30 people at the beach.
Karen Jones, also 40, a counsellor from Tendring, described the incident as “tragic”, adding: “As a parent, I would like to see more signage warning of dangers.”
All three teenagers were taken to Colchester General Hospital.
DS Wells added: “We are continuing to support the family at this unimaginably difficult time and are working closely with our partners.
“We would like to thank members of the public and our emergency service colleagues who responded really quickly and worked incredibly hard to help the teenagers.
“We would also like to thank members of the public who showed respect to the casualties and their families and who gave the emergency services space to work.
“We thank you for your support as we work to establish what happened.”
The East of England Ambulance Service said its first responder arrived at the beach less than seven minutes after the call was made.
Neil Stock, Conservative leader of Tendring District Council, told the BBC the seafront is “immensely popular” in summer.
He added: “It’s the school holidays, we’ve had terrific weather and you just don’t expect this sort of tragedy to take place in a place that is beautiful, attractive and people go there to have fun and enjoy themselves.”
In July 2018, Ben Quartermaine, 15, from Clacton-on-Sea, died after he got into difficulty in water near the pier.
His body was found after a two-day search by emergency services.