Death of graduate in Burton Bradstock landslide a tragic accident

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: TRAGEDY: The scene of the accident TRAGEDY: The scene of the accident

A YOUNG woman was just seven feet from safety when she was killed instantly by a massive landslide near Burton Bradstock, an inquest was told.

Holidaymaker Charlotte Blackman was strolling along Freshwater Beach with her family when 400 tonnes of rock crashed down on top of her.

An inquest into her death at Dorchester was told that the rockfall was a 'sudden act of nature' which no-one could have predicted.

Charlotte, 22, of Heanor in Derbyshire, died on July 24 despite a major rescue operation which lasted into the night.

She was staying with her father Kevin, 12-year-old brother Mitchell, his school friend, her boyfriend Matthew Carnell and mother Rachel at Freshwater Holiday Park when the tragedy happened.

The university graduate was just 7ft feet away from her dad Kevin and 10 feet from boyfriend Matthew Carnell when the landslide happened.

Mr Blackman said: “I was about seven feet from Charlotte when it happened.

“I heard a noise, looked up and saw a bit of dust come out a crack.

“I shouted run, turned around and she was gone.”

Several witnesses told the inquest they saw smaller cliff falls before the fatal landslide but Mr Blackman said they did not see any.

Fisherman Leonard Muggeridge said he thought he heard ‘gun fire’ as one section of the lower cliff plummeted, leaving a significant overhang.

Witness David Warren said he shouted a warning to the group not to go down the beach where he had seen a landfall but her family say they did not hear him.

Mr Blackman said: “I wouldn’t have taken my kids near it if I had seen a landslide.

“If I knew there were cliff falls we wouldn't have been there. We heard nothing and saw nothing.”

A post-mortem report stated that Miss Blackman’s death was caused by non-survivable injuries and would have been instantaneous.

Coroner Sheriff Payne said: “Sadly, Charlotte Blackman died as a result of an accident.

“It was a sudden act of nature that nobody could have predicted at that time.”

He added: “Her father Kevin was also injured and it is fortunate he didn't suffer more serious injuries.

“This was a sudden act of nature that nobody could have expected, in particular those poor members of her family.

“The only warning was a couple of stones coming down and then the substantial rock fall occurred.

“The post-mortem report confirms that Charlotte died instantly, there was no chance of her surviving or of anyone being able to pull her out alive.

“I would like to extend my sympathy to the family.

“I'm so sorry for your loss.”

Mr Payne said the National Trust, which owns a stretch of the beach where the tragedy happened, appeared to be doing all it could to warn visitors of the dangers presented by the 100ft cliffs.

He said there was not sufficient evidence to say if the weather had played a part in the landslide, after hearing concerns that heavy rain in the county in the weeks leading up to the landslide on a ‘glorious summer's day may have triggered large sections of the cliff to fall.

‘It was chaos’

CHARLOTTE’S boyfriend Matthew Carnell told the inquest of the moment when she was buried, just ten feet away from where he was standing.

He said: “It happened so fast, in the blink of an eye.

“There was no time to get out of the way or do anything.

“There was a crashing sound and a large dust cloud.

“Some of the rocks were the size of haystacks.

“I couldn’t see Charlotte.

“It was complete chaos, I was in a panic.

“I just wanted to find Charlotte and get her out.

“I didn’t want to stop until I found her.”

Public urged to heed signs

OFFICIALS said after the inquest that their thoughts were with the Blackman family but also warned people to keep clear of the cliffs.

A National Trust spokesman said: “Thoughts at this time are with Charlotte Blackman’s family in relation to the tragic accident which occurred on July 24 this year.

“Coastlines are dynamic and changing environments, particularly so on the Jurassic Coast and it is very difficult to predict when rockfalls and landslips might occur.

“We advise residents and visitors to West Dorset to take extra care on the coast.”

Clive Edwards, station manager for the Lyme Bay National Coastwatch Institution, said even now people were ignoring signs and advice to keep away.

He said: “A great number of people defiantly ignore the signage about the footpath being closed and the beach being dangerous.

“They say they have been doing it for years and who are you to tell us we can’t do it.”

Richard Edmonds, Jurassic Coast earth science manager at Dorset County Council, added: "The accident at Burton Bradstock was tragic, and our thoughts and condolences go out to the family and friends of Charlotte Blackman.

“As always, we would urge people to avoid the cliffs and mudslides and to heed warning signs.”

  • CORONER Sheriff Payne said he will be writing to Freshwater Holiday Park to make sure warning signs are placed on its land.

He said: “There’s a terrible balance between individual freedom and potential dangers.

“It’s dangerous to walk under any cliffs and these are more unstable than most.

“Miss Blackman’s family says the signs were insufficient and it is correct that they would not have seen the National Trust signs.

“I am going to make a report to the Freshwater Holiday Park that they will have to make signs more visible and in locations seen by people intending to go to the beach.”

There was no-one available for comment at Freshwater Holiday Park.

  • CORONER Sheriff Payne said he will be writing to Freshwater Holiday Park to make sure warning signs are placed on its land.
    He said: “There’s a terrible balance between individual freedom and potential dangers. It’s dangerous to walk under any cliffs and these are more unstable than most.
    “Miss Blackman’s family says the signs were insufficient and it is correct that they would not have seen the National Trust signs.“I am going to make a report to the Freshwater Holiday Park that they will have to make signs more visible and in locations seen by people intending to go to the beach.”
    There was no-one available for comment at Freshwater Holiday Park.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree