Woman dies after wheelchair plunge

A severely disabled woman has died after she fell from a historic harbour wall while strapped into her electric wheelchair.

Dorset Police said the woman, aged 20 and from Solihull in the West Midlands, was on the Cobb in Lyme Regis, Dorset, at around 12.45pm yesterday with her family, who were on holiday in the area, waiting to take a charter boat cruise.

While waiting she fell from the harbour wall and sank to the bottom of the three-metre-deep harbour in the wheelchair. Her family, the boat skipper and RNLI personnel from the nearby lifeboat station dived in and managed to free her, taking her unconscious to the surface.

She was flown by air ambulance to Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester but later died, Dorset Police said.

They have launched an investigation into the death on the 19th century harbour wall, popularised by the 1981 film The French Lieutenant's Woman, starring Meryl Streep.

A police spokesman said: "They were on holiday in Lyme Regis and were waiting to go on a charter boat trip when tragically the wheelchair fell into deep water.

"Rescue efforts were made by the family, the boat skipper and later by emergency services, including coastguards, lifeboat and police. After considerable difficulty she was able to be freed."

Dorset Police have launched an investigation and are appealing for witnesses to come forward. PA