Death of dog walker killed in Thorpeness cliff collapse was accidental, inquest hears

The scene at Thorpeness where a cliff collapsed at high tide resulting in the death of Brendan Laver

The scene at Thorpeness where a cliff collapsed at high tide resulting in the death of Brendan Lavery. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

A dog walker killed in a cliff collapse on Thorpeness beach died as a result of an accident, a coroner has concluded.

Flowers were left at the scene of the cliff collapse where Brendan Lavery lost his life. Picture: AN

Flowers were left at the scene of the cliff collapse where Brendan Lavery lost his life. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

Brendan Lavery, 58, of Culford Road, Bury St Edmunds, was walking his dogs on the beach with his partner Lynne Tibbert at around 12.30pm on January 14, 2017, when the tragedy happened.

A statement from Ms Tibbert describing the horrifying events that unfolded was read aloud at an inquest yesterday.

She said she noticed some sand coming down the 25ft cliff and said to her partner ‘look at that’ moments before it fell.

“There was a rumble like thunder coming from the cliff, she said. “Brendan was directly underneath.

The scene on the beach at Thorpeness after the cliff collapsed. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The scene on the beach at Thorpeness after the cliff collapsed. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant


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“As I was running towards the sea it sounded like an avalanche.”

She said she had been buried in the sand and mud from the top of her legs down.

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“I tried to look back, but all I could see were tonnes and tonnes of mud where Brendan was standing,” she said. The only thing I could think to do was blow my dog whistle. I kept calling and crying out for help. I finally managed to pull my legs out. I got my mobile phone out, but I had no signal.”

After a dog walker called 999, paramedics, the coastguard and members of the public desperately tried to dig Mr Lavery out.

Ms Tibbert said: “They told me Brendan died instantly. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s something you never think will happen to you.”

She praised the response of the emergency services, describing their efforts to save her partner as ‘fantastic’.

Paul Patterson, senior coastal engineer with Suffolk Coastal District Council, told the inquest the cliff was made of sand and mud and could easily be eaten away by the sea.

He said there has been several days of very high tides which had led to ‘significant cliff erosion’.

Assistant Suffolk coroner Dr Dan Sharpstone suggested that part of the attraction of nature spots is that they are ‘not entirely predictable in their actions’. He said there was no evidence that Mr Lavery had taken any unusual risks.

Signs were placed on the beach close to the site of the tragedy a month after Mr Lavery’s death. Concluding the inquest, Dr Sharpstone said: “Mr Brendan Lavery’s death was an accident as a consequence of a cliff fall at Thorpeness beach.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said: “Our coastline is dynamic and always changing.

“This tragic accident does emphasise the need for walkers to be careful when walking near cliffs, particularly after period of bad weather.”

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