Bemused residents and tourism officials in Cornwall have urged visitors to “engage their brains” after a family car got washed into the sea near St Agnes.

In the second such incident at Trevaunance Cove in the past eight months, the vehicle was swept away at high tide after the driver got stuck on a steep slipway while doing a three-point turn.

The 26-year-old, who was visiting from the Midlands with his family, said the incident happened overnight when he and his friend became lost.

“The back tyres fell over the edge of the slipway,” he said. “I tried calling 999 but we had no signal so we slept in the car for four or five hours with the wheels over the edge. Then my friend said ‘I’ve got a bad feeling, let’s get out of this car’. We got out, went for a walk up the hill to get signal and by the time we got back the car was swimming.”

Salvage experts recovered the vehicle, worth more than £25,000.

The car being dragged onto a recovery trailer.
The car being dragged onto a recovery trailer. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

Local fisher Barry Garland said: “I’ve pulled cars off the beach before. This car has blocked the entrance to the lifeboat which is a problem – if the lifeboat needed to get out now they’d struggle.”

Another fisher, David Bliss, added: “It’s a bit stupid isn’t it, let’s be honest. They’ve gone in with the loaves and come out with the fairy cakes. But these are the only two incidents here in my lifetime, both in the last six to eight months.”

David Bliss, a local fisherman in St Agnes.
David Bliss, a local fisherman in St Agnes. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

Another local business proprietor was more sympathetic: “Cornwall welcomes all tourists but we need a way to increase awareness about tides for visitors to the area because our beaches can be pretty dangerous,” she said.

“It’s inconvenient for the village and it’s not good for the environment. People make mistakes but they’ve driven past a ‘no through road’ sign.”

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said: “The vast, vast majority of people who come here are responsible but we have got some cabin-fever silliness going on since lockdown. People sometimes disengage their brains. It’s almost like hysteria.

“One of our main messages to tourists is that they need to protect, respect and enjoy. Protecting isn’t just about Covid, it’s about driving, fly-camping, lots of things. You can have a good time when you’re here but you have to respect local communities and the environment.”

The driver thanked residents for their assistance. “I made a mistake,” he said. “I’m so sorry for the locals. They’ve been brilliant, they’ve been so polite and have asked us if we want any help. Luckily no one was hurt. It’s only a piece of metal, it’s not going to affect our holiday.”

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