JETSKIERS who carried out stunts and roared around the sea just a few hundred yards off Highcliffe beach could have badly injured or even killed a swimmer, an onlooker who captured them on video has told the A&T.
Mike Hawkes and his wife Doreen were enjoying a stroll along the shore between 1pm and 2pm on 21st September when they saw five people on the machines.
Mr Hawkes said: “There were really close to the beach and there were swimmers in the sea who soon got out. There was also a child paddling.
“If any of those had been hit by a jet ski they wouldn’t have walked away from it. They could have been badly injured, or even killed.
“I’m not a killjoy but what they were doing was dangerous.”
The jet skiers had apparently ignored yellow buoys which are 200 metres away from the low-water line and mark safety zones for the beach.
Council regulations state that from April to October: “Watercraft cannot do the following in this area: go beyond six knots, annoy or endanger other beach users, run ashore or launch from the beach.
“Powered watercrafts must have an engine silencer fitted.”
Mr Hawkes, who lives near the beach, said: “These people must know they are not allowed to do what they were doing past those buoys. I imagine they came to Highcliffe beach because of the wave formation that day.
“They were using the waves to take off, do a back flip and come back down again, and other acrobatics, all within metres of families on the beach.
“Others were just jumping off the waves. They were roaring around quite fast. There were five of them but one of them wasn’t doing tricks, they just sat on their machine watching.”
His wife added: “The noise they were making was horrendous and the smell of petrol fumes was awful. We were shocked to see them so close to the beach.
“People might say ‘Oh it’s winter there isn’t anyone in the sea’ but people still like to walk along the beach, and we have often seen swimmers in there even at this time of the year.
“They must know the rules but they didn’t seem to care. A man pushing his baby daughter in a pram said to us ‘That’s so anti-social’ because the noise was so loud.”
The jet skiers returned to the beach the next day and again performed stunts close to the shore.
Mr Hawkes said: “People might think I am making a fuss about nothing but if you let one get away with it, how many more are going to start turning up?
“There are jet ski clubs around here which obviously know the rules and regulations and would allow people to enjoy themselves safely. If these people had been further out to sea and behind the buoys there would be no problem.”
Mr Hawkes reported the jet skiers, who he said rode off in the direction of Mudeford Harbour, when they had finished their display.
He said: “To be honest the council didn’t seem to know what to do even though there are by-laws about this kind of thing so we got in touch with our local councillor who forwarded our complaint to the chief executive of BCP Council.
“We received an email confirming they are investigating but we’ve heard nothing since. We are hoping that even the publicity will put these people off returning. If it becomes a regular thing it will ruin weekends at the beach for everyone who wants to enjoy it.”
After complaining, the Hawkes received an email from BCP Council which stated: “While the incident shown in the photo and video is unacceptable behaviour on behalf of the jet skiers, our operational response to this type of incident would be to liaise with the Dorset Police marine section and, where possible, local jet ski groups.
“The marker buoys which we have across the seafronts of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch designate an area within which swimmers have priority and any other sea user should operate at a reduced speed showing the correct respect to swimmers.”
“If these jet skis could be identified, normally by the vehicle identification number, then the Police and jet ski user groups can identify the jet skiers and take appropriate action.”
The council said Dorset Police marine unit would attempt to identify the jet skiers through the video and photographs provided by Mr and Mrs Hawkes. They will also be contacting local jet ski clubs to see if they can identify those involved.
Cllr Lewis Allison, cabinet member for tourism, leisure and communities at BCP Council, said: “We are taking these reports seriously and we will carry out an investigation.
“With these types of incidents, it is our usual procedure to liaise with Dorset Police’s marine section to address concerns and take action to ensure the safety of swimmers.”