Rock fall death girl Harriet Forster was 'in wrong place'

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Harriet Emily Nicola ForsterImage source, Family Handout
Image caption,
Harriet Forster's mother said she was "loved and cherished by all who knew her"

A nine-year-old girl killed by a falling rock from a cliff at a beach was "in the wrong place at the wrong time", a coroner has said.

Harriet Forster, from Oxford, died of serious head injuries when she was struck by a boulder in Staithes, North Yorkshire, on 8 August.

An inquest was told her mother, who was with her at the time, would swap places with her daughter "in a heartbeat".

Coroner Michael Oakley ruled a verdict of accidental death.

The inquest at Scarborough Town Hall heard the girl was visiting her aunt's cottage in the resort when she had gone "rock pebbling" to test out a new camera before the accident.

In a statement read out in the hearing, her mother, Holly Forster, described how they were on the beach, about 10ft (304cm) away from the cliff edge, when she heard a "scattering noise of pebbles" and stones falling with "one larger bit of rock about 2ft (61cm) by a bit less than 2ft".

The pair were both hit by rocks as they attempted to run away.

Image source, Paul Allison/Geograph
Image caption,
Harriet Forster was on a family visit to Staithes, North Yorkshire, when she was struck by a falling rock and killed

Mrs Forster cried "big rock, big rock" at her daughter moments before the nine-year-old was killed, the inquest heard.

When the rock fall ended Mrs Forster saw her daughter lying in the cleft of some rock with "blue lips" and a "white tongue".

Mr Oakley said Harriet's mother was unable to attend the day-long inquest because she was still "haunted day and night" by her daughter's death.

In her statement, Mrs Forster said: "The sights and sounds of that day are never far from my mind.

"Being without Harriet, who was the apple of my eye and the light of my life, causes me pain that I suspect I will never recover from.

"I would swap places with her in a heartbeat."

Image caption,
Coroner Michael Oakley recommended the installation of a clearer sign at the spot where Harriet was struck

Mrs Forster said more than 500 people attended her daughter's funeral.

"I would like to say on record that Harriet could not have been more loved and cherished by all who knew her," she added.

Despite efforts from an off-duty police officer and an off-duty paramedic to save her, the girl was declared dead at the scene in Seaton Garth.

She had suffered injuries to her head, chest and abdomen, the coroner was told.

The inquest also heard how there had been 55,000 rock falls near the spot where Harriet was struck and there was one warning sign, which reads: "Beware, dangerous cliffs".

Delivering his verdict, Mr Oakley described it as "one of the most tragic incidents".

He made recommendations for a further clearer sign to be installed and suggested a permanent barrier be put up preventing tourists going near the spot.

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