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Ingham dog walker died after cliff collapse on Suffolk coast, inquest told

Suffolk Coroner's Court
Suffolk Coroner's Court

A dog walker died after being buried by a cliff collapse on the Suffolk coast, an inquest has heard.

Brendan Lavery, 58, of Culford Road, Ingham, was declared dead at the scene of the tragedy on Thorpeness beach on January 14 last year.

Today (Monday) the inquest at Suffolk Coroner’s Court, in Ipswich, was told that Mr Lavery and his partner Lynne Tibbert travelled to the coast to walk their two dogs.

Ms Tibbert said in a statement that it was high tide which made it necessary to walk close to the base of the cliffs and she noticed sand pouring from a spot about 25ft up.

“Brendan looked up at it. The next thing was there was a rumble like thunder” said Ms Tibbert. “I started to run towards the sea. Brendan was directly under the cliff.”

The collapse of mud and sand buried Mr Lavery and left Mrs Tibbert trapped by debris to the top of her legs.

Ms Tibbert said she managed to extricate herself and after being unable to get a mobile phone signal managed to alert other dog walkers on the beach who called for emergency services.

As firefighters and coast guards tried to locate Mr Lavery, an eight-year-old girl who had seen the cliff fall was able to help pinpoint the location of the tragedy, the inquest heard.

Landowner Glencairne Ogilvie said in a statement: “I honestly do not know what I could have done to prevent this accident from happening.”

Paul Patterson, a senior coastal civil engineer, said the area where the cliff collapsed was subjected to very high tides in the preceding days which led to ‘significant’ erosion along several stretches of coast in Suffolk.

Warning notices posted within a month of the cliff collapse had been a responsible move by Mr Ogilvie, said Mr Patterson.

Ms Tibbert told the inquest: “Had we seen signs we might have thought twice about going on. That is my big concern about people on the beach. They could at least be told and could then chose whether to go on or not. “

A post mortem examination confirmed that Mr Lavery died as a result of massive multiple injuries.

Assistant Suffolk Coroner Dr Daniel Sharpstone recorded a conclusion that Mr Lavery died accidentally as a consequence of a cliff fall.

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