A teenager has described the moment when he was forced to give up a desperate attempt to save his younger brother who drowned with a sibling during a family holiday.

James (left) and Matthew Hole

Matthew and James Hole, aged 14 and 16, from Worcestershire, were playing in the sea off Llandanwg Beach near Harlech, North Wales, when tragedy struck in just a few seconds.

Their 19 year-old brother, Simon, told North-West Wales Coroner's Court, sitting in Pwllheli, yesterday how he frantically tried to save Matthew but found himself in trouble when he went into the water.

"I nearly got to him (Matthew) but I was in so much trouble myself that I had to turn around and when I got back to where I could stand, I couldn't see either of them," he said.

"I thought then the best thing to do was get out and call 999."

The inquest heard that the boys were staying at a nearby holiday cottage with their parents, from Hagley, and four brothers - two older and two younger - and were caught by strong currents in a sea that appeared calm.

On the evening of Thursday August 25, Matthew and James decided to go to the beach with their two older brothers, 18-year-old Stephen and Simon.

Stephen did not want to go into the water but the other three, who could all swim, went in up to their waists and began splashing around.

Simon told the inquest: "When we got to the beach it was extremely calm. There was almost no waves in the sea and hardly any wind, and the sea was probably warmer than it had been at any point in the week.

"When we first went in the sea there was hardly any movement in the water whatsoever."

He told the inquest Matthew suddenly became distressed but when he went to help him, he too found himself struggling.

He said: "We were probably in for about half an hour, when Matthew got into trouble.

"He was to our right and he started shouting 'I'm in trouble, I'm in trouble'.

"At that time I couldn't feel anything but I could tell by his face that he was serious.

"As I started moving towards him it felt like the sand just gave way under my feet and water was over my head.

"Not only did the ground seem to give way but there was also a really strong undercurrent which seemed to be suck-ing me under.

"I managed to get up and when I was in a swimming position, I couldn't feel it then and I got back to where I could stand up."

The court was told the boys may have stumbled into a gully, created by the River Artro running into the Irish Sea at the beach.

The strong current was probably caused by the fact that the tide was about to come in. By the time Simon had managed to struggle out of the gully and away from the current, he had lost sight of both brothers.

Stephen Hole, who stayed on the beach, said he did not see his brothers in distress.

"I was just wandering around near the top of the beach and they were all fine in the water," he said.

"I looked up a couple of minutes later and I saw Simon running up the beach towards me and I couldn't see the other two anywhere. I didn't see them in distress at all."

Graeme Hodgson, who was fishing on the beach with a friend, said he saw the boys 'horsing around' just 15 or 20 yards from the shore but did not see them get into trouble.

He said: "I could see them splashing about, they were about waist deep in water.

"I thought they were a bit close to us and I was hoping they would move away. I started to re-bait and then I looked up and saw the older boy running up the beach. I assumed the other two had gone up the beach as well because I couldn't see them.

"I didn't see them in difficulties."

James was found washed up by boulders on the beach around 25 minutes later. He died in hospital the following night.

Matthew's body was spotted in the sea the following evening, in almost the same place he had first got into trouble. Post-mortems revealed both boys died of drowning.

Coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones recorded verdicts of accidental death and said he hoped the tragedy would remind people that bathing in the sea is never entirely risk-free.

He said: "This will be no consolation to the family but what happened is not unusual in this area.

"It is a danger of these beaches and the probability is that there will be future casualties.

"I can only hope that the publicity of this case will highlight that there is no such thing as a safe beach."

The boys' parents, Kevin and Sue Hole, did not wish to comment after the inquest.