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Friday, 10 August 2018

Family pay tribute to girl, nine, who was 'light of our lives' killed in front of her mother by stone in million-to-one beach cliff rockfall

  • A nine-year-old girl died in a freak rockfall accident yesterday in North Yorkshire
  • She has now been identified as Harriet Emily Nicola Forster from Oxford
  • The youngster had been walking with her mother in a rock pool moments before
  • Harbour master Norman Fowler called the tragedy a 'one in a million' accident 
The family of a nine-year-old girl who was killed in a freak rockfall accident on a North Yorkshire beach yesterday have described her as the 'light of our lives'. 
Harriet Emily Nicola Forster, from Oxford, was hit by a single stone in what has been called a 'one-in-a-million freak accident', while walking with her mother at Seaton Garth in Staithes at about 4.30pm on Wednesday.
The distraught mother cradled her stricken daughter, while onlookers ran for help.
Today, Harriett's distraught family said in a statement: 'We cannot comprehend the enormity of this tragedy. Harriet was the light of our lives.
'We ask that you give us time as a family to support each other through our indescribable pain. Thank you.'  
Staithes harbour master and local councillor Norman Fowler, 71, rushed to the scene after being alerted of the accident by an onlooker.
He told the Mirror: 'She was walking on the rocks with her mum and a stone hit her on the head. It was a freak accident. It was a one-in-a-million chance.'
Locals and holidaymakers have described the shocking scenes as emergency services descended on the sand, following what witnesses said was a 'landslide'. 
Experts have now said the Jurassic age steep cliffs are cracking because of the heatwave. 
The girl of nine who died in a freak rockfall accident on a North Yorkshire beach yesterday has been named as Harriet Emily Nicola Forster
The girl of nine who died in a freak rockfall accident on a North Yorkshire beach yesterday has been named as Harriet Emily Nicola Forster
A single sunflower has been left at the scene of the girl's death. Rocks came tumbling to the ground yesterday as the girl played underneath them 
A single sunflower has been left at the scene of the girl's death. Rocks came tumbling to the ground yesterday as the girl played underneath them 
Dr Helen Reeves, science director for engineering geology at the British Geological Survey said: 'Recent weeks have seen an increased number of cliff falls reported around our coastline in the UK.
'Landslides, including rock falls, are commonly triggered in the UK by rainfall. In this instance, the recent unprecedented warm, dry weather is likely to be a contributing factor.
'Current research has linked rock falls to temperature fluctuations, but the research to fully understand this process is still ongoing.'
The girl who tragically died was believed to have been playing on the beach when rocks started to fall. 
A teenager in the area at the time, on Wednesday, said: 'There was a huge emergency response, there were two fire engines, about three police cars, two ambulances and the coast guard.
A nine-year-old girl has died from serious head injuries after a rock slide from cliffs in the seaside village of Staithes, North Yorkshire
A nine-year-old girl has died from serious head injuries after a rock slide from cliffs in the seaside village of Staithes, North Yorkshire
'The family has apparently just come for the day.
'I have heard from people in the emergency services that the little girl was just playing on the beach, it is normally completely safe, there are dangerous cliffs signs but you don't think it will happen,'she added.
'The rocks came from the top, they just killed her. People have said you could see dust all around.
'I've lived here all my life and never seen anything like it.' 
Some of the beach goers launched into action, trying to free those trapped under the rocks before the emergency services arrived. 
Emergency crews scrambled to the sand to rescue what was reported as trapped beachgoers
Emergency crews scrambled to the sand to rescue what was reported as trapped beachgoers
Medics could be seen arriving in helicopters on the stretch of beach where the rock slide occurred 
Medics could be seen arriving in helicopters on the stretch of beach where the rock slide occurred 
Some holidaymakers and those who live in the area have said rocks falling down is a 'regular' occurrence. 
Mark Cannell said he was warned to move from under the cliff, previously.
He said: 'I sat in that very spot with my son not that long ago, only to be advised by I presume a local of the regular rock falls and I should move. After thanking him I later noticed the sign that was previously obscured by other people. The area should be cordoned off if regular rock falls occur. Tragic news RIP.'
Locals were visibly upset as they comforted one another following the tragic incident.
Police remain in the area under the red, white and blue bunting in the Yorkshire town as residents struggle to come to terms with what happened
Police remain in the area under the red, white and blue bunting in the Yorkshire town as residents struggle to come to terms with what happened
Staithes harbour in North Yorkshire, where a nine-year-old girl has died after a rock fall
Staithes harbour in North Yorkshire, where a nine-year-old girl has died after a rock fall
Helicopters could be seen circling the cliffs near Seaton Garth and land on the beach so medics could rush to the scene.
North Yorkshire Police said in a statement: 'Sadly, despite the efforts of the emergency services, the girl died at the scene from her injuries. Her family are currently being supported by specialist trained officers.' 
A holidaymaker who was on the other side of the beach when the tragedy happened said: 'The first thing I noticed was a helicopter. 
'It is bizarre, I have been coming here for 40 years and I have never known anything like it. 
'But cliffs are always dangerous. The emergency service response was really quick, the response was huge. 
'Within the space of ten minutes there were more than I could count. 'The helicopter landed on the sand, you could see all the sand rising up. 
'I have never seen that before. 'Everyone was cleared off the beach really quickly. 'It was a really professional approach.
'I didnt hear any rocks falling. When it is really bad weather here and the rocks fall down you can hear it but today we heard nothing. 
'It was a quiet day today, it is normally busier in the summer holidays.' 
Ian Gawthorpe, 54, from Hull, who is staying in the village for a week, said: 'To get struck by falling rocks is really unusual, it was a freak accident. 
Locals looked visibly upset as they comforted one another following the tragic incident with one Twitter user describing the atmosphere in the village as being 'solemn'
Locals looked visibly upset as they comforted one another following the tragic incident with one Twitter user describing the atmosphere in the village as being 'solemn'
'You can't imagine what the family are going through, you bring your kids somewhere nice and quiet and that happens. 
'We are all guilty of it, we have all walked near the cliffs. 'You just don't think it will happen.
'The life boatmen are all upset about what happened, there is a life boat event this weekend and there is talk of it not going ahead. 'It makes people aware of what they do and getting funding, all of the emergency services were here last night. 'They are all needed. 
'It needs to go ahead.'
The civil servant added there are signs about rock falls.
He said: 'To be struck by falling rocks is a freak accident, unfortunately it's a young person which makes it even more difficult. 
Emergency services rushed to the scene and are understood to be searching for more victims. The beach where the rocks fell has now been closed to the public
Emergency services rushed to the scene and are understood to be searching for more victims. The beach where the rocks fell has now been closed to the public
'You come here because it is safe, it is good for kids, they can swim and kayak but unfortunately it was a one off.'
North East Air Ambulance Service told Mirror Online yesterday: 'We were called at 16:18 about a child who had sustained a serious head injury as a result of a rock slide at the South Pier at Staithes, near Saltburn.
'We dispatched a number of resources including 4 hazardous area response crews, an ambulance, a rapid response vehicle and an officer and requested support from the Great North Air Ambulance Service.'
Raymond Toughs wrote on Twitter: 'I'm hearing about a major incident in. There's been a rock fall and apparently people are trapped or missing, including children.'
Another user from the area Tweeted: 'There has been a major incident in North Yorkshire, this afternoon. The village is very solemn at the moment. My thoughts go out to everybody affected.'
Crowds gathered in front of the Cod and Lobster pub, Staithes, and watched as emergency services searched for more people trapped
Crowds gathered in front of the Cod and Lobster pub, Staithes, and watched as emergency services searched for more people trapped
Staithes coastguard said in a statement: 'The team were tasked today to an incident in Staithes.
'Numerous calls were made to the emergency services after a section of the cliff fell.
'Thank you to all the Emergency Services, Coastguard Teams and personnel for their very best efforts.'
Another local resident said the emergency service reaction was huge.
He said: 'It was mental, there were three or four fire engines, ten to 12 ambulances and six to eight police cars. 
'The cars were all building up.
 North Yorkshire Police confirmed in a statement that nine-year-old girl died at the scene from her injuries. File photo
 North Yorkshire Police confirmed in a statement that nine-year-old girl died at the scene from her injuries. File photo
'There are always going to be people going near to the cliffs and a few years ago somebody else died.
'But on the local beach, this close to the shore, we've never heard anything like it. 'I believe the little girl was down on the beach. 'It is hard because what can authorities do to keep people away from the cliffs?
'If kids are playing down there locals do tell them to be careful and to stay away. 'It is only a small place and you just don't expect this to happen.
'The cliffs must be so dry, the summer must have had an effect on them and when they're dry they crack. 'The hot weather must have effected them.'
The beach where the rock slide occurred has been closed to the public.

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