Tombstoning at Sidmouth prompts warnings

YOUNGSTERS, caught on camera tombstoning off Big Picket at Ladram Bay, Sidmouth, have prompted warnings against the daredevil sport by emergency services.

YOUNGSTERS, caught on camera tombstoning off Big Picket at Ladram Bay, Sidmouth, have prompted warnings against the daredevil sport by emergency services.

There have been 12 fatalities in four years from tombstoning, which involves jumping or diving from a height - usually clifftops - into the sea.

Mark Roden, a member of Sidmouth Lifeboat, said: "It is a high-risk activity, which is unregulated and undertaken by unsupervised individuals.

"Generations have been jumping, but recent tragedies, involving serious injuries, at times fatal, have highlighted the dangers."


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Between 2004 and 2009 there have been 168 tombstoning incidents with 37 injuries and the 12 fatalities, including broken necks, paralysis, shattered spines and drowning. All involve boys or men.

Sidmouth mum Sarah Hall from Alexandria Road photographed the lads as they jumped into the sea.

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She said: "I went for a walk along the coast path at Ladram Bay and watched in amazement at three lads climbed the rock and then jumped into the sea below."

She said there were four boys but one, when he climbed to the top of the rock, decided not to jump and climbed down again.

Guidelines have been issued by the RNLI and Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

These are: Think before you jump:

* Be aware of the depth of the water. Remember tides go in and out very quickly - it may start off deep enough but can quickly become shallower.

* Be aware of hazards in the water. Rocks, groynes or debris under the sea may not be visible through the surface.

* Never jump from any object into the sea while under the influence of alcohol or peer pressure.

* Consider the risk to others. Young children may be easily influenced by the behaviour they witness.

Mr Roden said: "The coastal waters surrounding Sidmouth and Ladram can be murky due to sediment being stirred up by storms and surf.

"This means that 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 said the best way to learn about the risks involved was to join a professionally-led coasteering group which involves scrambling, climbing, traversing and cliff jumping.

*A MCA video on tombstoning is available at www.mcapodcasts.co.uk/mcavnrs/index.htm

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