A LITTLE girl who died after being swept into the sea in front of her mother at a Dorset beauty spot was hit by a "freak" 8ft wave, an inquest has heard.

Five-year-old Rose Grace Carter, from Salisbury, died in hospital on April 18 after being knocked off her feet and pulled out to sea at Durdle Door.

She'd been enjoying a family day out, walking along the popular beach with her mother, Sofia, and older sister, when the tragedy unfolded.

Rose's shocked mother repeatedly entered the water to try and save her, but was beaten back by the conditions.

Onlooker Lucy Seviour, who was rock climbing with her partner nearby, attempted to swim out to try and reach Rose - but the waves hit her with such force that she broke a rib.

Describing the seconds after the wave struck the beach, Ms Seviour said: "I saw that Rose had been knocked flat by the wave and already was being washed back."

Ms Seviour - who has competed in a number of triathlons - told Dorset Coroner's Court, yesterday, how she made it through the first couple of waves.

"I could see Rose for half a second, she was half a metre away," she said. "I tried to move but got hit by another wave, then I got washed up on the beach."

She also told the court how she tried to pull Rose's frantic mum away from the water, but Mrs Carter went back in a couple of times to attempt a rescue.

Recalling the moment the wave hit the beach, Ms Seviour, a regular climber at Durldle Door, said: "A really, really big wave came in.

"I've never known a wave to come up that far."

Rose's grieving parents did not attend the inquest, but her grandmother, Jen Carter, and an aunt did.

However, earlier in the hearing, a statement had been read to the court from Rose's mum.

Mrs Carter, who said she'd been walking about three meters in front of Rose, continued: "I saw a really big wave that went up over her head and knocked her off her feet.

After a second wave knocked Mrs Carter off her feet, she said she stood up but could no longer see Rose.

Rose was eventually pulled from the water by two men who happened to be in the bay on a boat.

After being rushed to Weymouth, she was conveyed to Dorset County Hospital, in Dorchester.

Despite an hour three-quarters of CPR, she was pronounced dead just after 2pm.

A port-mortem confirmed the cause of death as drowning.

Witness Gordon Cobb, describing the wave as 8ft, said it "came out of the blue" and that "no other wave was like it before."

Meanwhile, Detective Constable Adam Taylor, who investigated for Dorset Police, said officers examined mobile phone footage showing conditions at the beach moments before the wave struck.

Det Con Taylor told the hearing: "Nothing could have been done to prevent what happened, which was a freak wave - a tragic accident as far as we are concerned."

Recording a verdict of accidental death, and commending Miss Seviour for her actions in attempting to reach Rose, Assistant Dorset Coroner Brendan Allen, said: "Tragically Rose and her family were walking along the beach at the same time the freak wave crashed up the beach and washed Rose off her feet.

"It is not something that could have been foreseen by anyone, it is a tragedy that this happened in these circumstances."