Lifeguard cover at a beach where a mother drowned after being swept out to sea with her two sons was lifted the day before she died.
Northcott Mouth, near Bude in Cornwall, is a quiet beach and was this year patrolled by lifeguards between July 7 and September 2, the day before local schools reopened, the RNLI said.
It is thought the woman, believed to have been in her 50s, went into the water at the remote beach to rescue her sons, aged 11 and 13, who had got into difficulty at around 2pm on Monday.
Steve Instance, the RNLI lifeguard inspector, said Northcott is a quiet rural beach designated for peak-season coverage only by lifeguards.
"Lifeguards patrol there in July and August through to the first week of September when local schools go back. Sunday was the end of the season for that beach," he said. "It is just unfortunate they have chosen to visit this beach the day after the lifeguards finished for the year. It is a quiet beach."
The RNLI said that levels of coverage at specific beaches are recommended by the charity after it carries out a risk assessment, which equips and trains the lifeguards, but decided upon by the local authority or the owners of private beaches, who pay their wages. Information on the locations, dates and times of local lifeguard cover is displayed in the area.
Mr Instance said four other local beaches, which have more visitors, have lifeguards on duty further into September. Because all the local beaches are linked at low tide, lifeguards from Crooklets beach, 1.5 miles away in the centre of Bude, raced to the scene in a 4x4 as soon as the alarm was raised, Mr Instance said.
The woman, whose identity has not been revealed, and her children were the only people in the water at the beach when the tragedy occurred, he added.
"We believe that the woman had gone in to rescue the boys," he said. "One of the boys got to the shore and the other was still in the water in difficulty. Two members of the public had also gone in." A member of the public raised the alarm after one of the boys made it back to shore. The other was rescued by the RNLI's Bude inshore lifeboat.
Martin Bidmead, watch officer at Falmouth coastguard, said the mother was plucked from the water. Medics performed CPR before she was taken to North Devon District Hospital, Barnstaple, by rescue helicopter, he added. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.