A MUCH-LOVED trainee nurse with the “biggest of hearts” tragically drowned in the sea abroad.

Millie Gentry, from Gomersal, was aged just 19 when she died after getting into difficulty in the water off the coast of Busua, Ghana, in the early hours of March 17 last year.

She had been on a voluntary work placement at a hospital in the area from the University of Bradford, where she was studying a three-year children’s nursing course, at the time of her sudden death, having arrived in the country for a month on February 27.

Bradford Coroners’ Court heard on Thursday that she was staying in a place called Dadson’s Lodge, in the small village of Busua, as part of a programme run by volunteering organisation The Mighty Roar.

Millie, her close friend from her course Erin Byrnes, and two other volunteers had been for a meal at Okroye Tree on the evening of March 16, 2023.

They then headed to the “Pool Bar” – the Busua Inn, a four-star hotel, according to The Mighty Roar CEO Christopher Holland – for a couple of drinks, the court heard.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The centre of Busua, with the Busua Inn, a four-star hotel, on the leftThe centre of Busua, with the Busua Inn, a four-star hotel, on the left (Image: Google Street View)

A course supervisor then brought the group back to their accommodation in order to meet a curfew of 10pm, which was set for the volunteers during most of the week.

The volunteers, including Millie and Erin, complied with this on the whole but that night the two friends, alongside another companion named Lewis Mallinson, decided to go for a “midnight swim” at around 12.30am the following day.

Mr Holland told the court that they would have had to have climbed a “pretty big” wall to get out of the premises at that time, which were locked at night.

The group got down to the beach, just a minute walk away, and into the sea but after around 15 minutes disaster struck.

Senior Coroner Martin Fleming said: “Strong waves and currents swept them out deeper into the sea and of course overwhelming them.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The small village of Busua, in Ghana, with Dadson's Lodge marked in the red circleThe small village of Busua, in Ghana, with Dadson's Lodge marked in the red circle (Image: Google Maps)

Lewis managed to get out and asked for help but Erin, who was not a strong swimmer, was still battling the sea and “tried in vain” to lift Millie in the water while screaming for help, the court heard.

Mr Fleming said Erin eventually came to the “terrible” realisation that Millie had “succumbed to the waters”.

He added: “She felt little choice under these desperate circumstances, she let go of her.”

Erin felt “close to giving up” but was rescued from the water.

Mr Fleming said: “Erin managed to desperately swim and she was recovered but of course in the case of Millie, and this is the terrible, terrible tragedy here, after the efforts of some 30 villagers, they couldn’t initially locate her”.

He added: “I believe she washed up some hours later.”

Millie’s body was found down the beach at around 5am.

A post-mortem in Ghana found Millie died from asphyxiation as a result of drowning, and she also had a blunt force injury to her head.

Mr Fleming said Millie’s drowning was likely brought on by the head injury that he considered she sustained while in the sea.

Third-party involvement was excluded and there were no signs of suspicious circumstances in relation to her death.

A “heartfelt” statement from Millie’s mum, Tracy – who works at Gomersal Primary School – was read out in court.

She said Millie was quite a shy individual who enjoyed family time and looking after their livestock – which included goats and chickens.

But when she met her boyfriend Elvis – initially online and then in person – he brought about a new confidence and strength in Millie, urging her to try new things.

Mrs Gentry said: “She reported back to me, he was the one she wanted to spend her life with”.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Coroners' Court, in Cater StreetBradford Coroners' Court, in Cater Street (Image: Telegraph & Argus)

Millie told the family of her plans to volunteer in Ghana and they were not sure she would go through with it, but she did and they said she “thrived” there, continually checking in and relaying stories from her time there to them over WhatsApp.

Mrs Gentry said her daughter had the “kindest, biggest heart despite her having a princess complex”.

Mr Holland said The Mighty Roar, which runs projects in 20 different areas around the world, has never had a problem in Busua in the seven years of running and the sea is not known to be “tempestuous”.

The court heard that volunteers were sent a handbook before travelling, outlining a number of safety considerations, such as warnings about swimming in the sea, which includes strict guidance about not swimming at night, on your own, or after having alcohol.

Mr Fleming said there was no evidence Millie had had more than a couple of drinks.

The coroner deemed her death as one of misadventure.

He said: “It’s so very clear Millie was a much-loved daughter and sister.

“She worked very hard academically and had the kindest and biggest of hearts, known by all who knew her.

“She had set her sights on becoming a nurse.”

Mr Fleming added: “Millie was a young woman who had so much promise ahead of her.”