Victim of Dorset landslide was a volunteer working with autistic children|
DERBY, UK: THE young Derbyshire victim of the Dorset landslide was a hard-working "smashing girl" with a bright future who gave up her own time to help autistic children.
Charlotte Blackman, 22, was described as "wonderful with children" and "absolutely brilliant" by a charity for which she volunteered. And her former head teacher said staff at the school she had attended had been "deeply affected" by her death.
Miss Blackman, from Heanor, was on holiday with her family and her boyfriend, Matt Carnell, when part of a 160ft-high cliff collapsed and sent a mountain of rocks plummeting on to the sand below. She was found buried under piles of rubble at the holiday spot in Burton Bradstock, following a nine-hour search operation on July 24.
Her devastated uncle, Douglas Blackman, said: "She was a lively, fun-loving woman, who had her whole life in front of her."
Miss Blackman was a volunteer with the Derbyshire Autism Services Group, for which she worked one-to-one with people with autism, including children, and helped give their families a break.
The group's manager, Margaret Reeve, paid tribute to Miss Blackman and said she was a "wonderful, wonderful young woman."
Tony Cooper, the head teacher of Aldercar Community Language College, where she attended and where younger brother Mitchell still studies, said: "She was a smashing girl, she really was. She was delightful, hard working and she had her whole life ahead of her. She had a very bright future and was never a minute's trouble. She worked hard, represented the school and gave her commitment when she studied here. It has certainly deeply affected all the staff that knew her here at the college."
Police, the fire service, ambulance service and the coastguard were all called to deal with the landslide at 12.30pm on July 24.
Following the tragedy, police urged visitors to stay away from parts of the Jurassic Coast, sections of which have been crashing into the sea for generations. Hive Beach, where the landslide happened, remained fenced off to the public, with a police officer standing guard.
Speaking shortly after Miss Blackman's death, Mr Blackman said: "I don't have many words at the moment, to be honest.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."
Mrs Reeve is the manager at Derbyshire Autism Services Group, in High Street, Ripley, where Miss Blackman had been volunteering for three years. Mrs Reeve said she wanted to respect the family's wishes not to speak in length about Miss Blackman but issued a brief statement in tribute.
She said: "Charlotte volunteered with us for three years working on on-to-one sessions with autistic children. All the time she was a volunteer, she was absolutely brilliant. She had a fabulous future ahead of her and was wonderful with the children. Our thoughts are with the family at this tragic time."
Jeaniene Imray is a friend of Rachel Blackman, Miss Blackman's mother. She said: "This is very sad news."
Tributes were also paid to Miss Blackman on the social networking site, Twitter. Miss Blackman's step-aunt, Rachel Saunderson, tweeted: "RIP Charlotte Blackman. She has been found dead after being rescued from Dorset landslide. Heard this from family members. xx."
The Hive Beach Cafe, which is located right by the scene of the tragedy, said on its Twitter feed: "We are all OK. Shocked and saddened by the death of Charlotte Blackman and our thoughts are with her family."
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. Search crews used dogs and specialist listening devices to try to find Miss Blackman amid fears of further rock falls at the site.
But hopes of her surviving the incident gradually diminished until her body was discovered under the 60ft-high pile of rocks.
An inquest into Miss Blackman's death was opened and adjourned at County Hall, in Dorchester, yesterday afternoon.
A spokesman for Dorset police said: "Her family have said they do not wish to make any statement at this time."
The tragic news of Charlotte Blackman's death has shocked residents in her home town. Bob Janes, the Mayor of Heanor, lives in Mansfield Road – the same street as Miss Blackman – and said he felt "saddened" by the news.
He said: "I saw the TV cameras outside and wondered why they might be there and then heard the news. I did not know the girl or her family but this is a terrible accident and is something that you can't imagine happening to you. My thoughts go out to the family of the girl."
Councillor Kath Lynch represents Heanor East ward on Heanor and Loscoe Town Council. She said: "It is awful to think that this family have been on holiday and one of them is not coming back.My thoughts are very much with the family during this terrible tragedy. I have a grandson and a granddaughter that are a similar age and I just don't know what I would do if something as awful as this happened to either of them."
Miss Blackman's MP, Nigel Mills, said: "I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the family of Charlotte Blackman who tragically lost her life in the Dorset landfall. My condolences go out to the whole family. Not only to boyfriend Matt, who, I understand, had the presence of mind to pull her young brother away from the falling rocks but especially to her parents, Rachel and Kevin, sister Sinead and brother Mitchell."
Mr Mills, MP for Amber Valley, added: "The loss of a daughter at the age of 22 is inconceivable and a huge loss to the whole family. I would also like to pay tribute to the emergency services who searched tirelessly for several hours in an effort to find her."
(Source: Derby Telegraph, July 26, 2012)