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UPDATE: Tragic teacher's family criticise cave death inquest
Updated 5:31pm Wednesday 19th March 2014 in News
THE family of a woman who died after becoming trapped in a sea cave claim an inquest into her death was a 'sham' as they raised concerns about the rescue operation.
Relatives of Charlotte 'Buffy' Furness-Smith spoke after a verdict of misadventure was recorded.
In a statement read out afterwards, they claimed the inquest had been a 'sham' and said key witnesses had not been called to give evidence.
Teacher and former Royal Navy reservist Miss Furness-Smith, 30, died after being washed into a cave on the Purbeck coast during a coasteering adventure with her brother Alex.
Mr Furness-Smith managed to swim to safety and raise the alarm.
His sister was already dead by the time coastguard officer Ian Bugler made a heroic attempt to rescue her after being lowered through a blowhole. This prompted criticism from her family who believe delays in the rescue operation made it impossible for her to be rescued in time.
They highlighted why the operation proceeded on the basis that Miss Furness-Smith was in a place of safety when evidence by a helicopter winchman was that she was in the water.
They also queried why 'self rescue' was being considered by a coastguard team an hour after they arrived when it had been discounted earlier by two members, and also asked why it wasn't possible for a rope to be put into the blowhole to rescue her.
They also said two independent witnesses had expressed concerns about the rescue.
The statement added: “There is no proper account of what was done in the one hour and 45 minutes when the cliff rescue team were present when the evidence given that it took 30 minutes to set up the rope system.
“The family still do not know what went on during that time.
“For these reasons and the fact that significant evidence was not properly considered the family have no confidence this inquest properly examined the circumstances of Buffy's death and the rescue operation so valuable lessons could be learnt to prevent further tragedy.”
Recording the verdict, Dorset Coroner Sheriff 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 nature.
“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.”
Bravery honour for coastguard
A VOLUNTEER coastguard will be recommended for a bravery award for his attempts to rescue Charlotte Furness-Smith from Tilly Whim Caves, near Swanage.
Dorset Coroner Sheriff Payne will write to the Ceremonial Secretariat to suggest a Queen's Commendation for Bravery for Ian Bugler.
Mr Bugler of St Alban's Coastguard risked his life to descend into the cave in a bid to rescue her.
The tragedy unfolded on November 2 when Charlotte and her brother Alex took part in the adventure activity, which involves free climbing on rocks and swimming.
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