York & North Yorkshire

Staithes cliff fall: Girl, 9, dies as rocks fall on to beach

Flower left at police cordon in Staithes
Image caption A single flower has been left near the scene in Staithes

A nine-year-old girl died from serious head injuries when rocks fell from a cliff at a beach in North Yorkshire.

Eyewitnesses said the girl had been on holiday with her family when the accident happened in the Seaton Garth area of Staithes on Wednesday.

Police said the child died at the scene and her family was being supported by specialist officers.

Onlookers described the fall, which they said was near warning signs about the cliff, as "particularly serious".

Image copyright Barbara Govan/Twitter
Image caption Staithes Coastguard confirmed a section of the cliff had fallen

Staithes Coastguard confirmed a section of the cliff had fallen.

Part of the beach at the popular tourist resort was cordoned off on Wednesday night. It has since reopened.

The area where the accident happened is understood to be on the eastern side of a harbour wall.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A woman said residents knew not to go too close to the cliffs as minor collapses were common

Eyewitnesses said the beach had been particularly busy at the time - at about 16:15 BST - and described seeing a "number of emergency vehicles", including fire engines, heading for the beach.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said the beach was "teeming with people".

"I was on there with my grandchildren and we left just before this happened," she said.

"It is absolutely terrible what's happened.

"Fortunately, we had walked the other way."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Signs are in the village warning of the danger of falling rocks

The woman said minor collapses were common and residents believed the recent weather had made the cliffs more unstable, especially with a long dry spell followed by heavy rain.

Engineering geologist Dr Helen Reeves said the recent dry weather was "likely to be a contributing factor" to the fall.

"Recent weeks have seen an increased number of cliff falls reported around our coastline in the UK.

"Current research has linked rock falls to temperature fluctuations, but the research to fully understand this process is still ongoing."

At the scene: BBC Radio Tees reporter Adam Clarkson

The only signs of yesterday's tragedy that remain are the police tape cordoning off the beach and the sombre feeling that has descended on the village.

Only a handful of people have made the walk to an unusually quiet Seaton Garth this morning.

Most spend a few minutes looking out to sea, then turn away.

From speaking to residents it is clear many are still reeling from the devastating news that something so awful could happen so close to home, at a place associated with fun and family.

Most people feel unable to put the shock into words at this time.

Image caption Part of the beach at Staithes has been cordoned off

North Yorkshire Police said: "Sadly, despite the efforts of the emergency services, the girl died at the scene from her injuries."

A statement from the RNLI said: "The RNLI, and in particular the volunteers of Staithes and Runswick Lifeboat Station, would like to share their deepest condolences with the child's family."

Scarborough Borough Council Leader Derek Bastiman added: "Our thoughts are with the family of the nine-year-old girl who has lost her life in such tragic circumstances.

"Many of us are parents ourselves and it's deeply upsetting when something like this happens."

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