'If I go, I want to go with my daughter': Father risked life trying to save his girl from landslide at Jurassic Coast beach
Charlotte Blackman was buried beneath tons of rocks on a beach in Dorset22-year-old, from Derbyshire, was walking with her boyfriend and fatherAll three were trapped by huge rockfall but men survived'I didn't want to leave without her', says boyfriend at inquest todayYoung woman was 10ft from safety when she became trapped
00:28 GMT, 19 December 2012
A man risked his life trying to save his daughter from a landslide, saying if he had to die it would be with her.
Charlotte Blackman, 22, was walking on a beach with her family when 400 tons of rocks plunged down a cliffside and buried her.
Despite his own injuries, her 45-year-old father Kevin scrambled over the fallen rocks to find her, an inquest heard yesterday. Helped by her boyfriend, 22-year-old Matthew Carnell, he tried to pull Miss Blackman clear but the boulders were far too heavy to shift.
Tragic: Charlotte Blackman, 22, who died after tonnes of rubble crashed down on top of her during a coastal landslide in Dorset. An inquest into her death was held yesterday
At one point, warned that rocks were still falling, he said: ‘If I go, I want to go with my daughter.’
Mr Carnell had managed to save Miss
Blackman’s 12-year-old brother Mitchell by pulling him into the sea at
Freshwater Beach in Dorset. He said she had been just 10ft from them –
and from safety.
It took nine hours for emergency workers to free Miss Blackman and she was declared dead at the scene.
David Warren, a passing canoeist who
had just seen three smaller landslides on the same stretch of the
Jurassic Coast, had tried to warn the group not to go near the cliff
only seconds before it gave way.
Charlotte's boyfriend Matthew Carnell pictured centre alongside family arriving at the inquest into his girlfriend's death yesterday. Her father is pictured centre back
Charlotte's mother Rachel pictured yesterday in blue as she attended the inquest into her daughter's death
However, the family did not hear him
scream at them: ‘Don’t go up [the beach], the whole lot’s going to come
down.’ Mr Warren told the hearing he saw Mr Blackman and Mr Carnell
desperately trying to move the rocks after the landslide.
‘They were covered in dust. I pleaded
with them to get back,’ he said. ‘I screamed and shouted at them to get
back as rocks were still falling. Kevin said “If I go, I want to go
with my daughter”. I felt so helpless, it was a horrible feeling.’
Witnesses told the hearing at Dorchester County Hall the landslide sounded like gunfire.
Tragedy: Charlotte Blackman and boyfriend Matt Carnell, who was rescued from the landslide that crushed her to death
Mr Carnell said: ‘It happened so
fast, it was the blink of an eye. We had no time to get out of the way.
I grabbed Mitchell and ran a few metres into the sea.
‘With that, a large dust cloud appeared and it was impossible to see for 20 seconds.
‘I turned to the area where the cliff face fell, boulders the size of a hay stack. I couldn’t see Charlotte.
‘It was complete chaos. I was in a panic and all I could think about was to get Charlotte out of there.’
'We began to shout her name and move boulders out of the way.
'I would estimate the height of the boulders which had fallen and stacked on top of each other as higher than 10ft,' he added.
'I can only describe it as being complete chaos.
Charlotte, a 'lively, fun-loving woman, who had her whole life in front of her'
'I was in a panic, all I could think of was to find Charlotte and get her out of there.
'I didn't want to leave without her.'
'I remember seeing two little stones, no bigger than a 10p piece. Then the whole lot came down.'
Asked by the coroner if there were any signs of cliff fall, Mr Carnell said: 'There were a few boulders but they looked like they had been there for years.'
David Warren, from Swindon, was two
weeks into a caravan holiday with wife Ann when he saw three landslides
from his canoe around lunchtime.
He said he went to the beach
following the landslips to try to warn people not to walk along the
front where the rocks had fallen.
Mr Warren said he saw Charlotte and her family further down the beach.
'I shouted to them that it was unsafe,' he said.
Charlotte's devastated father, Kevin,
said they had not heard any warnings or been aware of any landslides in
the minutes before his daughter died.
'If I had seen any landslides I would not have taken my kids down the beach,' he said.
Frantic efforts by rescuers,
including an Urban Search and Rescue Team sent from Devon and Somerset,
were unable to save Charlotte's life.
The body of university graduate Charlotte, a volunteer
with Derbyshire Autism Services Group, was recovered by rescuers, still
wearing her blue bikini, at about 9.30pm that night.
Canoeist and witness David Warren pictured arriving at the inquest yesterday
The inquest heard how Miss Blackman was just 10ft from safety when she became trapped.
It was initially thought that heavy rain and periods of strong sun were to blame for the landslide at the 160ft tall limestone cliffs at Hive Beach, which forms part of
Britain's Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
However, Richard Edmunds, an earth
scientist manager for the Jurassic coast team at Dorset County Council,
said the section of cliffs was most at risk of undercutting by the sea
and had not experienced any major falls since 2004.
He said: 'I would interpret that as the risk is a constant.
'[Landslides] could happen at any time and are not necessarily weather-related.'
The section of cliffs where Charlotte died has since been closed off, he added.
Mr Blackman, a National Express coach
driver, said there should have
been a greater number of warning signs on the beach itself warning of
the potential danger of rockfalls.
He said: 'We had been playing in a rock pool for about 45 minutes,
it was a perfect sunny day.
'If I had seen a landslide I would not have taken my family down there. I would not have taken my kids there.
'I wouldn't wish (what happened) on my worst enemy.
'No father or mum would take their child on to the beach if they knew danger was right in front of them,' he added.
Miss Blackman, a care volunteer from
Heanor in Derbyshire, had been spending the day with her father,
brother, his school friend, and her boyfriend of around seven years when
the tragedy happened last July.
Her mother Rachel had stayed at their
caravan park. Mr Blackman, a National Express coach driver, did not give
evidence at the inquest.
However, earlier in the legal proceedings, he
said he did not think there were enough warning signs on the cliffs.
The coroner, Sheriff Payne, said Miss
Blackman’s death could not have been predicted and added that 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
‘Charlotte Blackman died as a result of an accident,’ he ruled.
Miss Blackman had just gained a
first-class honours degree in education studies from the University of
Derby and wanted to teach.
Rescuers at the scene of the cliff landslide in Lyme Bay, Dorset, pictured alongside the tons of fallen rock which buried Charlotte
Charlotte was just two days into a camping holiday with her boyfriend and family when she was crushed to death by the massive landslide on the beach, pictured
The tragedy happened near the town of Burton Bradstock in Dorset
VIDEO Dorset services statement the day after Charlotte was killed
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