A holidaymaker died after being swept into the sea by a wave while taking photographs from rocks at a Hebridean beauty spot.
A number of the victim’s companions – believed to be all part of a photography group visiting from England – watched in horror as tragedy struck at Nisabost beach on Harris at around 8am yesterday.
The Coastguard was alerted and sent the Stornoway-based rescue helicopter, teams from Scalpa, Tarbert and Stornoway, and the Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat.
The 50-year-old was recovered from the water by the helicopter and taken to the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, on neighbouring Lewis, but Police Scotland later confirmed she had died.
Local politicians last night described their “shock” at the tragedy – the second death in waters off Harris in recent years after a 45-year-old woman drowned off Scarista beach in 2013.
Councillor Paul Finnegan, a member of the local coastguard team, said: “The lady was a tourist who had been taking photographs from rocks and she was hit by waves and knocked into the water.
“She was with a small group of people who were with her at the time, but couldn’t do anything to help her.
“It was quite breezy at the time and there was a natural swell in the sea. It is just terrible, absolutely awful and the second tragedy in recent years.
“This shows the dangers of the sea and how it can catch you out.”
Winds at the time were reported to be gusting at 50mph.
Councillor John Mitchel, who also represents Harris, said it was believed the woman was a member of a photography group from England staying on the island.
He said: “It is a terrible tragedy. It appears she was part of a photography group of holidaymakers who went to capture one of our many beautiful beaches early in the morning.
“The rocks are very slippery and where she fell is near a standing stone called Clach Mhic Leòid (MacLeod’s Stone) – maybe she was trying to get this in the shot.
“This tragedy has really shocked the community.”
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “I am very saddened to learn of this death, as I know will be everyone in the Isle of Harris.”
Inspector Jane Nicolson said: “Our thoughts first and foremost are with the woman’s family and friends.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
“We are carrying out inquiries to establish the full circumstances which have led to her death and this work is at an early stage.
“The death is currently unexplained, though initial inquiries suggest there are no suspicious circumstances.
“We are grateful for the assistance of our partners in the emergency services and members of the public in relation to this incident.”
In 2013, Rosemary Wickstead, 45, from London is thought to have jumped in to the water when her son began to struggle off Scarista beach, but then drowned.
Nisabost is a popular tourist attraction, described as being a “wild and beautiful beach backed by great dunes”.