Man killed in 'tombstoning' cliff accident

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The Independent Online

Coastguards have issued warnings about the dangerous craze for "tombstoning" - jumping off cliffs into the sea - as one man was killed and another seriously injured over the weekend.

In the first incident a 46-year-old man died when he leapt 30ft into the sea at Berry Head, near Brixham, Devon, at low tide.

Devon and Cornwall police said the man had been drinking with friends at Berry Head when, at 1.30am yesterday, he jumped from a cliffside building. Two anglers rescued the unconcious man and tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said he came from Torquay. "This was apparently some kind of stunt which he had performed many times before," a spokesman said.

Dave Sculliion, of the Brixham Coastguard, said: "We cannot over-emphasise the dangers of jumping into the water from heights, particularly in the dark when you cannot see what you are doing. This is not the first death we have had and people who do this risk their lives every single time they do it.

"On the afternoon before this incident we sent a team to give advice to 12 youths who were jumping into the sea at Oddicombe. The man who died at Berry Head had jumped into the water before and survived but when he did it again he miscalculated the tide with tragic consequences."

Limestone was quarried at Berry Head in the 1930s, and a quay with a derelict 10ft-high building upon it still remains. The drop from the quay to the water is about 20ft at low tide. The headland area is a beauty spot popular with anglers. Another member of Brixham Coastguard said: "Tombstoning happens all the time during the summer. It is a great danger and goes on year after year despite all our warnings. This is a needless accident and quite tragic for the family involved."

In Cornwall, a 29-year-old man knocked himself out jumping into the sea at Trevaunance Cove, near St Agnes, at 6.50am yesterday. He had been out all night with friends, who rang the coastguard. A member of the public waded into the sea to help him. He was pulled from the sea by a lifeboat and taken to hospital, coastguards said.

Falmouth Coastguard Watch Manager James Instance said: "This is the second incident of people jumping off cliffs into water which Coastguards in the South-west have dealt with overnight.

"In the first incident a man lost his life. This incident could just as easily have resulted in a fatality. This man lost consciousness as he hit the water and became severely hypothermic. Those who seek thrills by leaping into the sea at height should bear in mind that there are often rocks under the surface of the water which can cause severe and at times fatal injuries.

"In addition, tidal conditions can mean that what was a deep pool one day can be a shallow puddle the next.

"Even at this time of year the sea is very cold, and making sudden jumps into it can result in cold water shock," he said.

A 23-year-old man died while tombstoning at Ansteys Cove, south Devon, in June, 2005. The following month an 18-year-old man sustained head injuries doing the same thing near Porthleven, Cornwall.

In August 2005 a 21-year-old Australian bodyboarder broke both of his legs after tombstoning, also near Porthleven.

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