Rescuers find fifth dead body in rough seas off Scheveningen coast

A KNRM rescue ship in a search mission for six surfers in trouble near Scheveningen. May 11, 2020
A KNRM rescue ship in a search mission for six surfers in trouble near Scheveningen. May 11, 2020Kustwacht Nederland / Dutch Coast GuardTwitter

This story was originally published at 9:56 a.m. on 12 May 2020, and was updated at 10:55 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.

Search and rescue crews found the bodies of three water sports enthusiasts in the North Sea near Scheveningen on Tuesday morning. A total of five people in all have died as a result of the tragic events off the Dutch coast near The Hague on Monday and Tuesday. It was unclear if anyone else was missing, with rescue workers finding more surfboards than victims.

The bodies of the third and fourth victims were were discovered around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, roughly four hours after the search mission restarted. A fifth person was reportedly found dead around 10:30 a.m. in the water, but it was not clear if the remains had been removed.

Several of those killed were experienced surfers, including two surf school instructors, according to the Telegraaf. The victims also included trained lifeguards, The Hague night mayor Pat Smith told a local radio station. The newspaper said flowers were laid in front of the The Shore, a surf clinic and cafe on the beach there.

The trouble began Monday evening around 6:45 p.m., about five hours after the surf school said on social media it was restarting its surfing lessons while sticking to social distancing rules. A group of people including surfers and swimmers took to the water, but got into trouble because of the rough seas with wind speeds of up to 60 km/h.

It triggered a massive response from the Coast Guard, rescue service KNRM, paramedics, air ambulances, police and firefighters. They faced off against the blustery winds and choppy water which caused a heavy amount of sea foam, making it difficult to find the missing people. Still, the rescue workers managed to take seven people out of the water on Monday. Two died despite attempts to resuscitate them, and another had to be hospitalized. Emergency services continued to search the waters until it became too dark to see, suspending the search around 10:45 p.m.

The search resumed on Tuesday morning. "Two victims have so far been recovered this morning. One confirmed missing person is still being searched for by the various emergency services," the Coast Guard confirmed shortly before the body of the third dead person was discovered. 

"I knew two of these guys very well," said Smith. "Like me, they were internationally trained lifeguards. They have worked in Australia and received heavy training from an international water sports association. Yesterday they were training on the water. They got lost in the foam."

Smith added that the sea foam had already forced the group to move further away from the harbor point. He thinks they were overtaken by the foam, and then lost their bearings. "Just like in an avalanche."

On Tuesday the local emergency services office, Veiligheidsregio Haaglanden, said that they definitely knew of one missing person, and said two others were either missing in the water, or they might have made it to shore on their own. Information from the group rescued on Monday made it clear to them that at least one person was still missing.

Two others were also spotted in the water, but it had been unclear whether they left the water under their own power. Sadly, it now appears that they did not.