Sgt Stephen Hulsmeier had been enjoying a day out at Porth Neigwl beach, known to some as ‘Hell’s Mouth’, with his family and friends last August when tragedy struck
Image: Julie Cookson/WALES NEWS SERVICE)
An RAF officer died in front of his wife and son after being swept out to sea at a beach known as Hell’s Mouth.
Sgt Stephen Anthony Hulsmeier, 47, and his friend’s 12-year-old daughter were caught in a fierce tide current while on holiday.
The dad-of-one had been enjoying a day at Porth Neigwl beach – known to some as ‘Hell’s Mouth’ – Gwynedd, Wales with his family and two other families when tragedy struck on August 6 last year.
WalesOnline reports an inquest held in Caernarfon heard the sergeant and the 12-year-old daughter of one of his friends had been pulled out to sea and began to struggle in the choppy waters.
After the tragedy, RAF Brize Norton shared the following photograph of Sgt Huglsmeier – known as Hulzi to his friends.
WALES NEWS SERVICE)
The station said he was a popular aircraft engineer, and during his 23 years’ service he worked on many squadrons and stations including Coltishall, Coningsby, Leuchars, Cosford and more recently Brize Norton.
The court heard from Christopher Brown, who raised the alarm after spotting the pair meters away from the shore.
Mr Brown, who described himself as Sgt Hulsmeier’s “lifelong best friend”, said he had been supervising the children in the water when he realized the two had disappeared from the shallow waters they had been paddling in previously.
Mr Brown said the pair looked “obviously terrified” as he swam towards them. He said they were approximately 40 meters out to sea, and “visibly struggling in the deep water,” but eventually Mr Brown managed to reach the girl and take her to safety.
He then returned to the sea, where Sgt Hulsmeier was struggling to stay afloat due to the “fearsome” current. He said: “There was very little mercy from the sea, I could see he was going under the water.
“He was crying out and screaming for help. I managed to get him to hold on to my ankle for about 20 seconds underneath but we were both driven some relentless waves and when I surfaced he was again some meters away.”
Julie Cookson/WALES NEWS SERVICE)
Completely exhausted, Mr Brown realized he couldn’t reach his friend, and turned to the shore for help. He said: “I continued to shout and Steve to tell him to keep fighting and stay with me, I could hear him screaming behind me.”
Mr Brown collapsed as he arrived on the beach and was told Sgt Hulsmeier was being carried out of the water.
The inquest heard a team including the coastguard, police and paramedics as well as members of the public pulled him from the sea and began CPR.
They tried for two hours to revive the father-of-one, but he was sadly pronounced dead at 4.03pm.
His wife Becky has since paid tribute to her husband, a popular aircraft engineer who had served in the RAF for 23 years.
Following their tragic loss, Sgt Hulsmeier’s family have questioned the safety measures at the Porth Neigwl beach, which is managed by Gwynedd Council.
Julie Cookson/WALES NEWS SERVICE)
In a statement read at the inquest, wife Becky said: “This is a beach we have been to a number of times in previous years and lifeguards have never been in attendance.
“It is my belief that there had been lifeguards or clearer signs, this may have prevented my husbands death.”
The inquest heard from Barry Davies, Maritime Services Manager for Gwynedd Council, who said “rigorous periodic risk assessments” are carried out to ensure public safety.
Mr Davies said that while between 35 and 40 wardens are employed by the council in peak seasons, they are not lifeguards and are allocated to beaches depending on the level of activity at each beach.
On the day of the incident, a warden had not been allocated to Hell’s Mouth beach, as it is considered a naturally occurring beach and is not one of the county’s blue flag tourist beaches.
He told the court that Sgt Hulsmeier’s death was the first of its kind at the beach since he took up the position in 1996.
Tearfully addressing the family, he said: “We feel for you, and this has deeply affected all of us, we have all been affected by this tragic case.”
A postmortem conducted by Dr Muhammad Aslam at Glan Clwyd Hospital gave a cause of death of drowning.
Assistant Coroner for North West Wales, Sarah Riley, recorded an inquest conclusion of misadventure.