Christmas Day paddle victim Frances McKeown mourned

Still of Frances McKeown (BBC) Ms McKeown had been with friends when she was knocked over by a wave

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Friends of a woman who died after being swept into a groyne off the coast of Sussex during a Christmas Day paddle have spoken of their devastation.

Frances McKeown, 50, suffered head injuries when she was knocked off her feet by a wave and carried into a barrier off St Leonards, near Hastings.

She was pulled unconscious from the water and taken to hospital, but died.

Colleagues at Hastings Voluntary Action (HVA), where she worked, described her as a larger than life character.

Director Steve Manwaring said: "Everyone at HVA is devastated by the news. She will be greatly missed, not just by everyone who works here but the wider network of charities, community groups and voluntary organisations that are based in the town."

Sussex Police described the death of Ms McKeown, also known as Frances North, as a "tragic accident".

A post-mortem examination is expected to take place over the next few days.

Swim 'called off'

Three people tried in vain to rescue Ms McKeown of Bexleigh Avenue, St Leonards, according to Dover Coastguards, who said she was face-down in the water for some time.

They described sea conditions on Christmas Day as being unsuitable for swimming or small boats.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: "There are no suspicious circumstances and the death is being treated as a tragic accident.

"The woman was not taking part in an organised swim.

"She was with a group of friends who had been going to take part in an organised charity swim, but that had been called off by the organisers earlier during the morning because of the adverse sea conditions.

"The rest of the group did not enter the water."

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