A woman who died while coasteering along the Dorset coast put had put herself in a ‘risky situation’ the county’s coroner has ruled
At the end of a two-day Bournemouth inquest Sheriff Payne recorded a verdict of misadventure on 30-year-old Charlotte Furness-Smith.
Meanwhile, a coastguard volunteer will be recommended for a bravery award for his attempts to rescue Miss Furness-Smith who was trapped in a cave in “horrendous sea conditions”.
Mr Payne will write to the Ceremonial Secretariat to suggest a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for Ian Bugler.
Mr Bugler risked his life to descend into the cave near Swanage in a bid to rescue Miss Furness-Smith who had got into difficulty while coasteering with her brother in November last year.
The London teacher was already dead by the time Mr Bugler entered the cave, prompting criticism from Ms Furness-Smith’s family who believe delays in the rescue operation made it impossible for Charlotte to be rescued in time.
The family also claim key witnesses were not called to give evidence.
Mr Payne said: “The coastguards are all volunteers and do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They are trained in cliff rescue – they are not trained in cave rescue or anything of that
“Obviously, there was a sense of urgency by all involved. She (Charlotte) was rapidly getting more terrified of her situation and needed urgent rescue.
“What I cannot ignore is the fact that Charlotte and Alex put themselves in a risky situation in poor weather that was predicted to worsen.”
The tragedy unfolded on November 2 when Charlotte and her brother took part in the adventure activity, which involves free climbing on rocks and swimming.
They were washed into a cave in heavy seas and Alex was able to get out and raise the alarm.
Despite the efforts of rescue teams, Ian Bugler spotted her dead body in the cave.
The conditions were too difficult for a recovery operation and her body has never been found.
The family of Charlotte Furness-Smith giving a statement after the inquest
Mark Rodaway, Portland Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre manager, said: "Any death at sea is a tragedy and has a profound impact on the family, friends and all those involved in the search and rescue operation. Our thoughts are with those that have been affected during this difficult time.
Charlotte's uncle Peter Furness-smith speaking after the inquest
“This was a complex rescue, with winds gusting up to 60mph, horrendous sea conditions combined with high tide and limited access to the cave. This was proven when one of our Coastguard Rescue Officers risked his own life when attempting to abseil down a narrow blow hole.
“I am confident the Coastguard helicopter crew, Coastguard Rescue Teams and the RNLI lifeboat crews on scene that day made every effort while there was still a chance of a successful rescue outcome.”