Family pay tribute to Burton Bradstock beach landslide victim Charlotte Blackman


Emma Hallett,Ryan Hooper
Wednesday 25 July 2012 16:39

Family and friends of a landslide victim have paid tribute to a “genuine, warm and funny young woman”.

Charlotte Blackman died after being crushed as 400 tonnes of rock fell on her during a trip to the beach.

The 22-year-old, from Heanor, Derbyshire, was on holiday with her family and boyfriend when part of a 160ft-high cliff-face on the Jurassic Coast collapsed and sent a mountain of rocks plummeting onto the sand below.

Her body was found under piles of rubble at the popular holiday spot in Burton Bradstock, Dorset, following a nine-hour search operation.

Her uncle, Douglas Blackman, said: "She was on holiday with her whole family, her mum Rachel, dad Kevin, sister Sinead, little brother Mitchell, and boyfriend Matt.

"My brother and her boyfriend and her little brother were there when it happened. I understand the boyfriend got her little brother away into the sea to get him from it.

"She was a lively, fun-loving woman, who had her whole life in front of her."

Miss Blackman was a volunteer with Derbyshire Autism Services Group, where she worked one-to-one with people with autism, including children, and help to give their families a break.

The group's manager, Margaret Reeve, paid tribute to Miss Blackman today and said she was a "wonderful, wonderful young woman".

"She was a very genuine person, very warm, very funny, and had a great deal of time for people. She was a very good volunteer," she added.

"People always spoke highly of her, she was very well thought of.

"Charlotte was one of those people who could walk into a room and make everybody smile, she could make you laugh. She was a very dedicated worker."

Mrs Reeve said Miss Blackman had been with the group for a number of years and hoped to go into a career working with people with autism.

Her work stemmed from a deep desire to help, Mrs Reeve said.

"Charlotte was one of those people that really cared about others," she said.

"She was so good and she had a brilliant future ahead of her. She did very well in her exams.

"We're absolutely shocked here, and stunned. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and we're trying to get our heads round this."

Witnesses said Miss Blackman, the oldest of the three siblings, was walking along the beach with her boyfriend and father when they were caught up in the landslip.

The two men were pulled from the rocks by bystanders, but they were unable to locate the woman, who was walking directly under the rock fall, according to reports.

Police today urged visitors to stay away from parts of the Jurassic Coast, sections of which have been crashing into the sea for generations.

Mike Darby, neighbourhood inspector with Dorset Police, said: "The Dorset Local Resilience Force, which comprises police, fire, council and coastguard among others, is advising residents and visitors to west Dorset to avoid cliffs and beaches with a cliff-top backstop, following a significant landslide."

Hive Beach, where the landslide happened, remained fenced off to the public, with a police officer standing guard.

Mr Darby said other officers and RNLI volunteers were also speaking to people in car parks surrounding the scene of the tragedy, in an effort to "get the safety message across".

Miss Blackman's family, which he described as being "very close (to each other)", are currently being looked after by officers.

The tragedy came a fortnight after Somerset couple Rosemary Snell, 67, and Michael Rolfe, 72, were killed in a landslide at the Beaminster Tunnel, just nine miles away.

The area was also hit by severe flooding which left much of the community under water.

David Evans, environment officer for Dorset council, described yesterday's incident as a "most unfortunate accident".

"It's a feature of the geology of the Jurassic Coast that rock slides have happened since time and memorial," he said.

"We have always had signs that there is a risk. The particular problem here has been created by heavy rainfall, so we put out extra warnings to the media.

"Most of west Dorset is unaffected, we're trying to keep as much open as possible. Please follow the signs, they are there for the public's safety.

"You can't predict exactly where these things will occur."

He said the council's geologist was today continuing investigations into the landslide.

"We know there is an increased risk as a result of the weather conditions," he added.

Emergency services were all called to deal with the landslide at 12.30pm yesterday.

It hit just 400 yards from the Freshwater Beach Holiday Park as scores of holidaymakers enjoyed what was the hottest day of the year.

Craig Baker, of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said they had always maintained hope that the 22-year-old victim would be pulled from the rubble alive.

He said: "We always hoped that this would be successful. From the initial time of call right through to the time of discovery, it was always the focus that this was a search and rescue operation."

The inquest into Miss Blackman's death was opened and adjourned in Dorchester this afternoon, police later confirmed.


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