Eastbourne fisherman dies after pier tragedy ‘leaving behind a family who now has a hole in its heart’

A popular Eastbourne fisherman has tragically died after getting into difficulty in water near the pier.

Graham Coombes was spotted in the sea on Sunday evening (May 1) and emergency services arrived at the scene at 7.20pm, police said.

Sussex Police, the RNLI and the coastguard rescue helicopter attended the incident.

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A police spokesperson said, “The man was pulled from the water by the lifeboat crew and taken to hospital in a serious condition.”

Eastbourne fisherman dies after incident at pier. (Photo from Laurence Baker)

Richard Mitchell, who is Graham’s nephew, was present during the incident as he works as a doorman at the Drop in the Ocean pub at the end of the pier.

Mr Mitchell said he didn’t realise it was Mr Coombes immediately, as he hadn’t seen his uncle for a long time.

He said two police officers attended the incident at 7.20pm and Mr Coombes was ‘screaming for help’ from the water.

Mr Mitchell said he helped the male police officer over the gate to get down to the fishing platform, however by the time the officer got down there with the lifebuoy Mr Coombes was face down in the water and drifting further away from the pier.

The lifeboat arrived 15 minutes later, and the helicopter after 20 minutes, said Mr Mitchell.

He added, “We were all in tears.”

Mr Mitchell said Mr Coombes was a fisherman, well-known in Sovereign Harbour, and a strong swimmer.

Nathan Martin, Mr Coombes’ stepson, said his stepfather died on Wednesday (May 4) at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. 

A family spokesperson said, “Graham passed peacefully and quickly, leaving behind a family who now has a hole in its heart. Please can people give us time and respect at the moment to grieve.”

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