Beaminster Tunnel tragedy: Community devastated as bodies are found (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
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Beaminster Tunnel tragedy: Community devastated as bodies are found
10:38am Wednesday 18th July 2012 in Bridport
THE Beaminster community has been rocked by the news of a buried car discovered by the tunnel more than a week after torrential rain caused a landslide.
County Councillor Rebecca Knox said her sympathies were with the friends and families of the people involved.
She said: “It is an extremely sad tragedy. It is very sad both for the families and friends and also the community of Beaminster who no doubt will also express their sympathy. It was an extreme shock.
“The landslide caused an enormous amount of interest, not only was it sadly a tragedy for the travelling public and for the community and now there is an added and even bigger sadness.
“We had thought that there hadn’t been anyone hurt at the time.”
Mrs Knox said the mudslide had not been cleared since the flood because of the instability of the tunnel.
She said: “The tunnel was still very unstable. I was there with the structural engineer from the county council and really it needed to be made safe and that was the most important thing.
“The whole site was being made safe. My understanding is that safety was absolutely paramount for anyone who was either near whether the public or those inspecting the site.”
Town and district councillor Janet Page said was equally shocked by the news.
She said: “I did see the fire engine up there on Monday night. I did wonder what was going on.
“It is a horrid thought.”
She said the damaged Grade II listed building had been a major tourist attraction since the floods but no one had any idea that anyone was under the mud.
“People have been going up and looking at it. I did, it is the tourist attraction of the day. You can go and stand at the barriers and have a look. It was difficult to see much, there is this mass of green and that it is all you can see really. It almost blocks the entrance.
“I know they were waiting for a surveyor to come and have a look at the actual structure of the tunnel to see what damage had been done and what to do to stabilise it.
“It is a tragedy.”
Flood warden and former town councillor Douglas Beazer said: “I am desperately sorry to hear about this. It is very sad.
“All this week many people around the town have been saying thank goodness nobody has been hurt. It is such a startling revelation.
“When I went up there on Monday morning taking those photographs there were footprints in the mud. It looked like people had been walking around it so it was like a quagmire.
“It is the horror of it, it sort of hits you in the back of the throat.”
Robin Musson from the parochial church council said: “What a terrible surprise. We know some people who travelled through the tunnel on the day and were so grateful that they had avoided the problem.
“To hear that someone didn’t is appalling. It is terrible. It could have happened to any one of us.
“I am sure that everyone in Beaminster will be horrified.”
'People missed it by minutes'
WI member Angela Seckington added: “It has gone on so long. I can’t believe that nobody walked up through the tunnel from the other end.”
Former Beaminster teacher Stephen Yates said: “I am shocked. “There are going to be people’s lives wrapped up in this. “Obviously somebody has gone missing and someone is desperately out there trying to find them.
“I am kind of angry because there hasn’t been anything done about the tunnel, that is probably my first feeling. Why hasn’t anybody been in there to investigate what the mess is?
“They have put gates up and stopped people going through, but why didn’t they check it? Why didn’t they go and look?
“I am annoyed. Frankly I think they should dig a cutting and just put a bridge over the top – it would make a lot more sense. Structurally it is always going to be under question.”
Beaminster resident Peter Culver said he had warning for several years about the tunnel.
He said: “Ever since they cut the trees down they have had trouble down there.
“I wrote to the council and got a reply telling me that the water was being caused by a spring.
“I told them there has never, ever been a spring in that tunnel ever since I have been here since the 50s and the cause of the trouble is all the trees have gone and they are not taking up the water and it is coming over there like a flood every time it rains. Now what has happened? A tragedy.”
‘People missed it by minutes’ WI president Maggie Warnett, who lives just above the tunnel, told of her sadness at the news.
She said: “I came home at midnight on Monday night and there were police cars everywhere, policemen running back and forth with walkie talkies.
“It is just unbelievable – the tunnel looks like it has been abandoned for centuries, not a week. I am absolutely gobsmacked.”
Her son was visiting at the weekend and they went to show him what had happened to the tunnel in the floods.
She said: “We walked right to the entrance to the tunnel and took loads of close up photographs and I am amazed that we didn’t see anything. They have obviously been careful not to disturb much because they wanted to make sure the tunnel was safe before they allowed anyone in to think about clearing it, that is what we assumed. We all used that tunnel on that Saturday.
“Because I am involved in so many things, I am going back and forth to Beaminster all the time.
“I have spoken to a couple of people who said they only missed it by a few minutes.
“I am totally shocked. You cannot believe that could happen and nobody notice.
“It is just so sad.”