A father has described how he found out his two sons had been swept into the sea by a freak wave while fishing when he saw one of them brought ashore in a lifeboat.
Bristol brothers Dr Robert Allen, 30, and Charles Allen, 21, died after the incident near Treyarnon Cove, near Padstow, in north Cornwall on September 4 last year.
An inquest heard how a wave hit Robert, a research associate at Bath University, washing him into the sea, while his student brother was swept away while trying to help him.
The siblings, who were on a family holiday, were fishing from rocks near Pepper Cove with their brother-in-law Andrew Thornton.
The inquest heard the brothers were experienced and “conscientious” fishermen.
Giving evidence at Cornwall Coroner’s Court in Truro on Friday, April 6, Mr Thornton, a joiner, said: “Rob said he had a fish on.
“To make sure the fish didn’t get off the line we all climbed down lower. Charles came down with a net but the fish got away.
“Rob blamed Charles because he took too long getting the net down so he was ranting and raving about that.
“There was a big rock in front and a flat bit behind it (where we were). The wave came and hit the rock and wrapped around the side, it hit Rob and washed him into the sea.
“We all got hit by it. Charles was clinging on to the side and I dropped to the floor.”
Mr Thornton said Robert started trying to take his clothes off so he could float and swim better and Charles tried to help him but was hit by another wave and taken into the water.
He said he managed to raise the alarm and Charles was rescued from the water at 2.48pm by a lifeboat crew and taken ashore at Treyarnon Bay where the emergency services tried to revive him.
He was taken to Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro but was later pronounced dead.
Robert’s body was not found until seven days later on September 11 after being washed ashore a few miles north east of their fishing spot.
In a statement read to the inquest, the pair’s father Anthony Allen said he and his wife had four children, with Robert being the eldest and Charles the youngest.
He said both were keen outdoors men who enjoyed fishing and were “conscientious” about weather conditions and tide times and heights.
Anthony Allen said his wife and him took their grandson to the beach at around 2pm on September 4 and became aware of a helicopter in the air near where his sons were fishing.
He said: “The beach had lifeguards on duty that day and they called for members of the public to come out of the water.
“I wondered what was going on but a few minutes later I saw the lifeboat come ashore and inside there was a male. I could see that it was Charles.”
Anthony Allen said he stayed on the beach while CPR was carried out and until his son was taken to hospital.
He said he was informed by Mr Thornton that his eldest son had also gone into the sea “due to a freak wave” catching him.
Detective Constable Alex Fisher, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said the deaths could not have been predicted and that they died “despite all efforts by family and friends and the emergency services”.
Anthony Allen added: “The ironic thing is Charles and Robert used to go kayak fishing so they had brand new life jackets and they were in the car (they) just didn’t anticipate the need for them.”
Post-mortem examinations were conducted and the cause of the deaths was found to be drowning.
Senior Coroner for Cornwall Dr Emma Carlyon ruled the brothers deaths were accidental and said she was encouraged by the RNLI’s plans for education in the local angling community.
Steve Instance, the RNLI’s community safety manager, said the charity would look at whether the stretch of coast was suitable for signs but would focus on education and awareness.
“People choose fishing spots because they are rural and remote,” he said. “We can’t put signage all the way around the coast.
“We think the better option is to have anglers better equipped. The general feeling among anglers is ‘I’ve been fishing for a long time, it won’t happen to me’.”