Cave death: Victim's body seen floating in water, inquest hears

Dorset Echo: Charlotte Furness-Smith Charlotte Furness-Smith

THE missing teacher who drowned in a sea cave was seen floating in the water by a rescuer after becoming trapped, an inquest opening heard today.

Extreme sports fanatic Charlotte “Buffy” Furness-Smith, 30, was coasteering with her 31-year-old brother Alex when she was washed into Tilly Whim caves in Swanage on 2 November 2013.

Despite the brave attempts by rescuers who spent hours talking to her through a blowhole they were not able to reach her in time and her body has not been recovered.

Chief Coroner Peter Thornton QC gave permission for the inquest to take place in the absence of a body.

Emergency services were notified on November 2 that there was a person in the sea off Anvil Point on the Isle of Purbeck.

A man was rescued in the coastguard helicopter but a female was unable to be rescued, according to a statement from Coroner’s Officer Carolyn Stuart.

She said: “A female was trapped in the water and she was unable to be rescued. She was seen floating in the cave by a rescuer.”

Ms Furness-Smith was born in Trinidad and Tobago and the family moved to the UK when she was eight.

She joined the Royal Navy Reserves at Exeter University where she graduated in engineering before going on to qualify as a maths teacher.

Two months before the tragedy she had started a new job teaching maths at the Bristol Free School.

Family and friends paid tribute to the former Royal Navy poster girl who worked at the London Olympics.

In a family statement her mum Patricia, 57, and dad Charles, 58, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire said they were “devastated”.

Investigations are ongoing and the inquest has been adjourned until March 18.

District Coroner Sheriff Payne said: “This is an unusual case because usually you can only act in the presence of a body. But at the present time the body has not been recovered.”

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