Butlins barmaid, 22, drowned after she was pulled into sea by fierce wave following row with boyfriend

A BUTLIN's barmaid drowned after being pulled out to sea by a ferocious wave following a row with her boyfriend, an inquest heard.

Bethany Skinner, 22, died in hospital after suffering brain damage from a lack of oxygen on February 26, 2019, Crawley Coroner's Court heard.

She had been pulled under the water by a strong tide in Bognor Regis, West Sussex two days before.

The Plymouth Uni art graduate, from Somerset, was due to move to China to teach English but was working at Butlin's to pay off her student debt.

On the night she drowned, she had been at Sheiks nightclub with colleagues and her boyfriend of three months Philip Erickson.

The inquest heard how Bethany had an argument with her partner and both were asked to leave the nightspot by security.

In a statement, one of the bouncers said the 22-year-old told him: "I have been trying to please him all night but I can't do anything right."

Giving evidence, Philip told the court: "We had a little bit of an argument, she said I was spending too much time with the boys, she was saying she would go home.

"I said I didn't want her to go home. When she tried to go I grabbed her arm to stop her, and the bouncer thought it was a bigger argument and fight so they told us to leave.

"I would say that I was tipsy. She was on the same level, like drunk, tipsy."

Philip said, after they left the club, Bethany walked ahead of him down to the beach.

He told the court that after standing in the water with the waves up to her shins, his girlfriend was pulled under by strong waves.

He said: "The tide was very tough. There were lots of waves. She was stood up to her shins where the water is and saying she would go in.

"It all happened so quickly. The wave knocked her a little bit, she was stumbling."

Philip, who previously worked as a lifeguard, described how he tried and failed to save Bethany.

He continued: "I was trying to get her. When the waves had come, I had to let go – I couldn't do anything.

"I had her by her arm and tried to grab her by her waist and put her over me and swim.

"There were times when the waves would come over us. I have looked back over and she's gone under."

He said that Bethany was telling him she couldn't swim and pleaded "not to let her die."

The court heard how the boyfriend ran back to the nightclub to get help.

Emergency services were then called and a lifeboat was launched.

Philip attended a police station the following day were he was arrested on suspicion of an "apparent assault", reports Wales Online.

Despite Bethany's relatives suggesting that a physical fight may have occurred, the assistant coroner Alicia Keen said the bruises found on the barmaid's body was likely the result of being "tumbled" by the waves.

Her body was carried under the pier by the tide, the inquest heard.

Detective Sergeant Graham Leaney said police found "no evidence" that Philip had inflicted any injuries on his girlfriend and as a result no criminal charges were brought against him.

Andrew Harris, of the RNLI lifeguard, testified that the water was so choppy that night that a member of his team fell out of the boat.

Bethany was pulled from the water with no pulse but was resuscitated and taken to hospital.

However, while in intensive care, she was found to have suffered "unsurvivable" brain damage due to lack of oxygen.

Her cause of death was given as multiple organ failure as a result of immersion.

Bethany's family said in a statement: "Beth was a beautiful young woman of 22 with her whole life ahead of her. She was cheeky and vivacious as a child and as she got older.

"She was loving and caring towards others, and protective of her younger sisters. She was determined to travel more as it opened her eyes to the world.

"As may be suggested by her degree course, she was very artistic and loved to express herself through art. The family can't understand what happened that night and will be tormented by not knowing this."

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.

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