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7 teens drown of South African coast
Updated: 2005-05-23 08:56

Seven teenage girls drowned Sunday in a rip tide off South Africa's east coast and a boy was missing after a beach outing turned tragic when the swimmers ventured out before lifeguards were on duty.

Lifeguards later managed to rescue 20 swimmers, police spokeswoman Capt. Tienkie van Vuuren said.

The bodies of the seven who drowned were found later in the day, according to National Sea Rescue Institute officials.

Van Vuuren said the search was called off Sunday night for the missing boy and was to resume Monday morning. The victims were ages 16 or 17, van Vuuren said.

The swimmers went to the beach at the town of Richards Bay on South Africa's east coast about 7 a.m. and went into the water before lifeguards were on duty.

The first lifeguard to arrive tried to warn the students, but it was clear some of them were already in trouble, said Rassie Erasmus, an official with the local rescue team.

Erasmus told the South African Press Association that the tide was going out and there was a dangerous rip tide.

The students were among a group of about 250 from Ndlela Secondary School in Piet Retief, northeast of Johannesburg, that had attended a sports outing the previous day. They were on the way home and spent a night near the beach.

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