Only one member of the original 10-person group was rescued, according to the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Organization

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 14, 2020 02:15 PM
Advertisement
Five surfers died after getting into difficulty in "avalanche-like" sea foam caused by stormy conditions off a popular Dutch beach, police and witnesses said May 12,
Credit: SEM VAN DER WAL/ANP/AFP via Getty

Five surfers drowned in the Netherlands this week after thick foam in the ocean hindered attempts to rescue them.

The group was caught in a "man-sized foam layer at sea and on the beach" off the coast of The Hague, a city on the western side of the Netherlands, on Monday evening, according to a translation from the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Organization (KNRM).

Only one member of the original group was saved in the rescue operation, which was disrupted by "strong winds and high waves" that "made it very difficult to provide relief from the harbor pier," KNRM said.

According to CNN, police, firefighters, members of the coastguard, and other emergency workers were involved in the rescue. A helicopter was also brought in to increase visibility by breaking up the foam.

"Ambulances and trauma helicopters were ready to take care of the victims on Monday evening," a translated statement from the KNRM said. "But they too could not prevent two surfers from [drowning] that evening."

The bodies of two other surfers were spotted the next morning, while another was seen but not recovered.

"On Tuesday morning two more surfers were taken lifeless from the sea," the group's translated statement continued. "A fifth victim was seen, but disappeared from sight underwater and has not yet been found. The search has now ended."

Five surfers died after getting into difficulty in "avalanche-like" sea foam caused by stormy conditions off a popular Dutch beach, police and witnesses said May 12,
Credit: Robin Utrecht / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty

The victims' ages range from 22 to 38, and they have not been publicly named.

Johan Remkes, mayor of The Hague, called the incident a "terrible tragedy" in a post on the city's website. The surfers were "young, physically fit, sporty people, who know the sea like the back of their hand, [and] somehow got into trouble," Remkes said.

"People here understand better than anybody else that 'The sea gives and the sea takes,' but the way in which so many young lives ended abruptly and so many families and groups of friends have been affected is incredibly brutal," he continued.

Remkes said he witnessed the rescue operation himself and the efforts to save the surfers left him "deeply impressed."

"It is still too early to definitively conclude what happened exactly and what combination of circumstances led to this fatal outcome," he explained. "We, of course, will try to get to the bottom of this."

Five surfers died after getting into difficulty in "avalanche-like" sea foam caused by stormy conditions off a popular Dutch beach, police and witnesses said May 12,
Credit: SEM VAN DER WAL/ANP/AFP via Getty

"How is it possible that such experienced surfers were completely taken by surprise at a spot they knew so well?" Remkes asked. "But also: how is it possible that a drama unfolded at one harbor inlet while at the other harbor inlet, not even 100 meters away, people were still surfing until late in the evening?"

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Holland Surfing Association posted a picture of a makeshift memorial that showed a black and white painting of five sharks, representing the victims.

"We express our sympathy to the relatives and everyone involved," the group wrote. "In the surf community in Scheveningen and far beyond there is great defeat, we are in deep mourning for this loss."