Rock fall which killed Charlotte happened in a 'blink of an eye'
THE boyfriend of a Derbyshire woman who was crushed by 400 tonnes of falling rocks from a cliff said the landslide happened in the "blink of an eye".
Charlotte Blackman was on holiday in Dorset with Matthew Carnell and her family when the tragedy happened on July 24.
The 22-year-old, from Heanor, was walking on the beach when the landslide happened. Her body was discovered amongst the rocks nine hours later.
At an inquest into her death, Mr Carnell said he pulled Miss Blackman's younger brother, Mitchell, into the sea to avoid the 400 tonnes of falling rock which killed her.
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A post-mortem examination concluded Miss Blackman died instantaneously of multiple injuries.
He told the inquest at Dorchester County Court: "We decided to go for a walk while Rachel (Charlotte's mum) decided to set up camp. I noticed ahead a cloud of dust – it could even have been smoke from a fire – drifting out to sea. Within seconds it had cleared.
"We carried on walking, then 15 minutes later decided to turn around and walk back. Within a minute of turning around, I saw two small stones falling down the cliff. I immediately looked up to the cliff and saw almost half of it collapse.
"Within the blink of an eye, I saw what was happening. I heard a crashing sound, grabbed Mitchell and ran a few metres into the sea.
Mr Carnell, 22, said the boulders that had fallen from the cliff ranged in size from a football to a stack of hay.
He said: "I tried to move the small boulders out of the way. People approached and told us to get out of the way. I heard them shouting. It was complete chaos. All I could think of was to find Charlotte and get her out."
Eyewitnesses to the incident reported seeing a smaller landslide before the one which killed Miss Blackman.
Miss Blackman's family raised issues in court with the lack of signs in the area, which is a private beach used by customers of the Freshwater Holiday Park, near to a National Trust-owned beach.
Her father, Kevin Blackman, who was injured in the landslide, said: "The route we used to approach the beach from the holiday camp meant we didn't see any warning signs. There should be some near the playing fields so kids can see them."
Helen Mann, National Trust property manager in Dorset, said: "The access to Freshwater beach is not owned by the National Trust. Signage on the beach itself can't be sustained.
"We own some of the beach but we can't physically stop people going on it.
"We try to keep people safe as best we can, but we can't close all the beaches."
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Sheriff Payne, coroner for Dorset, said: "I will make a report to Freshwater Holiday Park.
"They will have to make their signs more visible and keep them in locations where they will be seen.
"The National Trust has replaced 42 signs since July but it is an ongoing task that is impossible. The effects of the sea make their task more difficult."
In summing up, Mr Payne said: "Charlotte sadly died as a result of an accident – an act of nature that nobody could have expected."