Dorset tunnel landslip: Body found in buried car

ACC James Vaughan: "There were no obvious signs of a vehicle buried in the mud"

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At least one body has been found in a car buried near a partially-collapsed tunnel in Dorset - and another is thought to remain inside.

The car was discovered under mounds of earth near the Beaminster Tunnel on Monday. It is believed to have been buried for more than a week.

One of the victims has been named locally as Rosemary Snell from Misterton, near Crewkerne in Somerset.

Rescue crews began searching the area after reports of two missing people.

Avon and Somerset Police said the pair - a man in his 70s and a woman in her 60s, from Taunton and Crewkerne - were traced to the area on 7 July.

'No obvious sign'

Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) James Vaughan, of Dorset Police, said the area around the tunnel had been searched after several hundred tonnes of water, mud, bricks and trees collapsed at the edge and the road was closed.

He said: "At that time it wasn't suspected that anyone was trapped in the landslide and it wasn't obvious that any vehicle was there."

Fire crews began excavating the pile of earth at 18:30 BST on Monday and found the car about 50 minutes later.

Friends told how Ms Snell volunteered in the local community and was a member of the Women's Institute.

Rosemary Prince, who volunteered alongside Ms Snell, said: "The fact that she must have been there 10 days. Nobody had thought of looking.

"You'd think somebody would have looked through what was in the tunnel and made some inquiries."

Another fellow volunteer, Tim Udall, said: "It is a tremendous shock because she was such a well-known person in this community.

"She was one of those people we knew would benefit us and the community for a long time to come because of her knowledge and her outgoing personality."

'Vehicle crushed'

Earlier a white screen was set up around the site while the car was removed on a covered lorry and taken away for analysis.

ACC Vaughan said: "The vehicle was crushed, the roof was completely flat and we found at least one body inside and suspect that, amongst the mud, there is a second body inside the car.

"We have forensically recovered that vehicle back to Weymouth Police Station where specialist investigators will take care and time to cut the vehicle open and recover, in a dignified manner, the bodies of those missing people we suspect to be the couple from Somerset."

He said the landslide and tunnel collapse was one of 400 incidents that had been reported to Dorset Police during the weekend as heavy persistent rain caused flooding in the west of the county.

"There were several hundred tonnes of mud and rubble and there were no reports of missing people in the area, so the bridge had been secured safely.

"It was only when concerns were raised by Avon and Somerset Police yesterday that we began to search and the vehicle was discovered."

Dorset Police said the families of the missing people had been informed and were being helped by liaison officers.

Dorset County Council had previously said the road through the tunnel was expected to remain closed until September while repairs were carried out.

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