DICING WITH DEATH: ‘Tombstoning’ craze comes to Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 12:30 11 August 2011 | UPDATED: 13:19 11 August 2011

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Archant

Shocked walkers caught thrill-seekers on camera

THRILL-SEEKING daredevils are dicing with death by leaping from a Ladram Bay landmark and plummeting 70 feet into the sea.

Stunned walkers caught on camera the moment a trio of young men hurled themselves off Big Rock as part of a life-threatening craze that has killed or maimed hundreds. Rescuers and beach safety bosses have warned of the perils of ‘tombstoning’ – and say Sidmouth’s murky and shallow waters contain scores of hidden dangers.

“I’ve seen people jumping off lower ledges, but never from this height,” said Ian Dowell, part of a walking group who spotted the men on Sunday.

“People were concerned about their safety,” he added.

“They were climbing up the side of the rock and plunging off the top without appearing to have a clear view of the water or any boats below.

“There is quite a lot of rock just below the water on one side and if the youngsters were unaware of this there could have been a nasty outcome.”

At least 14 people in the UK have died, and another 40 have been seriously injured or paralysed as a result of the dangerous activity in the last four years.

Andy Philips, the district’s beach safety officer, said: “Anyone who jumps from a height into water is taking a risk, especially if they are unsure about the depth.

“Jumpers can sustain head injuries, break limbs or injure their spine. This can result in permanent paralysis or death.

“Someone injured by a fall into water could also drown before help arrives.”

Sidmouth Lifeboat’s Mark Roden added: “It’s a high-risk activity which is unregulated and unsupervised.

“Coastal waters surrounding Sidmouth can be murky due to sediment being stirred up by storms and surf.

“This means visibility under water can be reduced to a few centimetres. In these circumstances tombstoners need to assume the worst case – that there are rocks immediately below the surface.”

He added young children may be easily influenced by behaviour they witness.

A spokesperson for Ladram Bay Holiday Park, which owns the beach, said: “We’ve put signs telling people not to go tombstoning. It’s something we’re very much against.”


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