A SOUTHAMPTON man drowned at sea off the coast of a popular tourist destination in Malta, an inquest heard.

Andrew Jasminder Heer died at Ramla Bay on the limits of Nadur in Gozo on September 3.

Winchester Coroner’s Court heard the 50-year-old, of Millbrook Road East, was on holiday when he got into difficulties while in the sea.

His body was identified to Maltese paramedics by his friend. Mr Heer was then identified to Maltese authorities, who transported him back to the United Kingdom.

A pathologist, who was not named at the hearing, carried out a post mortem and offered a preliminary cause of death as seawater drowning, with a more detailed report to follow.

Acting area coroner Samantha Marsh adjourned the inquest until March 4 2020.

Reports in Maltese media on the day of the incident said both Mr Heer and his friend had been swimming on afternoon of September 3.

Malta Today, an English language newspaper in the country, reported the two men were brought to shore and administered CPR by bathers at the beach before a medical team from Gozo General Hospital arrived but Mr Heer was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maltese media reported the two men were swimming despite the beach flying a double red warning flag, which indicated that the sea is dangerous for swimming.

Meanwhile, local radio network 89.7 Bay said eyewitnesses told them the man found himself in trouble in the rough sea and he was pulled to the shore by lifeguards. Police were alerted at around 3pm local time and Mr Heer’s friend was taken to hospital for treatment, it was reported.

Ramla Bay is considered the most popular beach in Gozo and one of the best in the Maltese Islands.

The beach is unique in the region with its golden-reddish sand, while Roman remains lie beneath the surface and Calypso Cave, which is reputed to be the cave referred to by Homer in The Odyssey, overlooks the western side of the coastal retreat.