Charlotte Furness-Smith died after becoming trapped in Tilly Whim cave last year

Inquest to begin into death of Charlotte Furness-Smith who became trapped in Tilly Whim cave

Inquest to begin into death of Charlotte Furness-Smith who became trapped in Tilly Whim cave

First published in News
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A TERRIFIED woman who died in a sea cave tragedy screamed 'get me out of here' as a brave attempt was made to rescue her in stormy conditions.

Royal Navy reservist Charlotte 'Buffy' Furness-Smith was heard pleading for help after being swept into the Tilly Whim caves near Swanage on November 2 last year during bad weather.

But despite the efforts of a hero volunteer Coastguard who risked his life climbing into a narrow blowhole to try and reach her, the 30-year-old could not be saved.

Her devastated brother, 31-year-old Alex, told a Bournemouth inquest into her death he had tried desperately to help her.

The siblings had travelled to Dorset to kite-surf, but decided to coasteer instead because of the bad weather.

Alex said he was “tossed upside down underwater” after they were dragged into the cave together, and seized the opportunity to raise the alarm when he could.

He added: “The only option was for one of us to try to get out and get help.

“I decided I would go out and try to get help rather than risk both of us getting smashed against the rocks.”

He reassured his sister before swimming out of the cave.

“She said she couldn't bear not knowing if something had happened to me,” he said.

“I said she should be able to see me going out, and if I did get into danger she'd have a second chance of getting out. I asked her to stay put. I thought that was the safest thing to do.”

Coastguard officer Ian Bugler volunteered to be lowered through a narrow blowhole at the top of the cave to try and reach Charlotte.

Winchman paramedic Adrian Rogers told the inquest Mr Bugler was “thrown around as if in a stone washing machine”.

Tragically, despite his efforts, it was too late.

Mr Bugler said: “I decided I was going into the hole to attempt the rescue. The cave was very dark and murky.

“She was being thrown around in the water and was face down being thrown against the ledge. At this point I was satisfied that she had died.

“I was bashed about by the waves. I was getting very concerned for my own safety. Eventually I was pulled up.”

His father, Andrew Bugler, also a volunteer coastguard, said the decision for Ian to be lowered into the cave was taken because the team believed they could save Charlotte.

“I could hear her screaming 'get me out of here'. She was terrified.”

Russell Thompson of coasteering company Cumulus Outdoors said: “I would never have thought about getting into the water on that day.”

He added that he and a colleague had been “weather-watching” and said the area might be suitable on “a flat, calm day for someone with coasteering experience”.

Charlotte, a maths teacher from London, was an engineering graduate and former Royal Navy reservist. She was a strong swimmer.

Although her body was never recovered, Coroner Sheriff Payne applied for permission from the Chief Coroner in London to conduct inquiries.

The inquest continues.

Updates live from the inquest here

Comments (5)

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1:08pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Matthew_Y says...

It pleases me that the coroner has both recognised, and commended Ian Bugler for his bravery.
It pleases me that the coroner has both recognised, and commended Ian Bugler for his bravery. Matthew_Y
  • Score: 43

2:37pm Tue 18 Mar 14

60plus says...

May she rest in peace.must be terribly for the family she has not been found and laid to rest.
May she rest in peace.must be terribly for the family she has not been found and laid to rest. 60plus
  • Score: 18

10:43pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Yankee1 says...

We often forget the bravery of those who risk their lives to save ours.

Swanage is especially blessed by these brave men and women. It is a tradition going back hundreds of years. I call it 'Swanage Strong'.

Those who come here should respect the fact that the area can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. And be sensible.
We often forget the bravery of those who risk their lives to save ours. Swanage is especially blessed by these brave men and women. It is a tradition going back hundreds of years. I call it 'Swanage Strong'. Those who come here should respect the fact that the area can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. And be sensible. Yankee1
  • Score: 8

8:56am Wed 19 Mar 14

Niki1 says...

Whilst I agree this was a really sad tragedy and it is a sad shame that this young lady lost her life, I can not believe that her parents openly criticised the people that put their own lives at risk in trying to rescue this young lady by saying that they took too long to get there. This young lady was doing a dangerous sport in extremely bad weather conditions and the rescuers would have done everything in their power to try and save her. The RNLI/Coastguards etc do a fabulous job and put their lives at risk rescuing people who do things that they know are dangerous. I am sorry if this comes across as harsh but it is also harsh to criticise the wonderful people who do this on a day to day basis
Whilst I agree this was a really sad tragedy and it is a sad shame that this young lady lost her life, I can not believe that her parents openly criticised the people that put their own lives at risk in trying to rescue this young lady by saying that they took too long to get there. This young lady was doing a dangerous sport in extremely bad weather conditions and the rescuers would have done everything in their power to try and save her. The RNLI/Coastguards etc do a fabulous job and put their lives at risk rescuing people who do things that they know are dangerous. I am sorry if this comes across as harsh but it is also harsh to criticise the wonderful people who do this on a day to day basis Niki1
  • Score: 27

2:49pm Wed 19 Mar 14

cynicist says...

It must have been devastating for her brother.
It must have been devastating for her brother. cynicist
  • Score: 2

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