WEST DORSET LANDSLIDE: Woman crushed to death at Burton Bradstock (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
Contact the Bridport News with your stories, pictures and video footage. Send us an email
WEST DORSET LANDSLIDE: Woman crushed to death at Burton Bradstock
A WOMAN aged 22 was killed under a massive landslide after watching cliff falls on the Jurassic Coast in West Dorset.
Rescuers worked late last night – Tuesday – in the hope of finding the woman alive under more than 100 tonnes of earth and rubble – but they recovered a body at 9.40pm.
Sniffer dogs and listening devices were being used.
The woman died after being trapped when cliffs crumbled and came crashing down on to Burton Bradstock Beach.
Witnesses said there was a series of falls before a major collapse at about 12.30pm yesterday which sounded like ‘thunder’.
The authorities said that more than 400 tonnes of rubble came down altogether. It is understood the woman, who was on the beach with her parents and boyfriend and staying at nearby Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, watched the cliff falls before she was buried in the larger landslip.
It triggered a major rescue operation involving dozens of emergency services personnel and specialist search teams.
Other beach-goers caught in the rubble suffered injuries.
Authorities had earlier warned of unstable cliffs along the coast following unprecedented levels of rain a fortnight ago.
There will now be restricted access to beaches from West Bexington to Lyme Regis because of the Burton landslide.
The cliff horror comes after Somerset couple Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe were killed in a landslide, nine miles away at the Beaminster Tunnel.
Fire crews along with police officers, coastguards, a lifeboat crew, paramedics and lifeguards swarmed at the beach in vehicles, boats and rescue helicopters.
The specialist Urban Search and Rescue Team from Exeter were also scrambled.
Representatives from the National Trust also attended.
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service group manager Mick Stead said a 20-metre stretch of the South West coast path gave way.
Speaking at the scene before the woman’s body was recovered, he said sniffer dogs were searching the pile of mud and rocks and rescue teams were using listening devices to try to locate the woman.
The father of the trapped woman was escorted up the beach by medics with his arm in a sling and looking shocked.
His wife said he was being taken for pain relief.
She said: “It is my daughter trapped under there.”
Other family members were being comforted by witnesses but were too shocked to speak.
Former Bridport teacher Len Muggeridge witnessed the rock falls while fishing on his boat.
He said the noise was like 'thunder' when the cliff fell.
Gary Rafferty, 36, of Bournemouth, said: “We were walking right along the path where it began to fall, we didn't hear a sound. It was just terrifying.
“I rushed to help and helped a man in his 50s out of the debris.
“I saw a younger man who had also been trapped.
“I asked him if he was OK and he said ‘no, my girlfriend's trapped under there.’ ”
Dennis Gregory, of Weston-Super-Mare, said: “We were on the beach and we saw loads of rocks fall in three stages.
“We saw it fall on people and it was just an awful thing to happen.”
A number of warnings have been issued about landslide risks and instability of the cliffs along the stretch of West Dorset coastline.
Councils have warned of an increased risk of rockfalls but also the danger of thick mud flows and quicksands in areas which give the appearance of a solid beach.
In the last few weeks, coastguards rescued two children who became stuck in mud on the beach at Seatown and a man who was trapped on rocks at Lyme.