Nine-year-old girl killed by single stone in Staithes tragedy identified

This is the first picture of a nine-year-old girl who died after being struck by a single stone in a “one-in-a-million freak accident” at a North Yorkshire beach.

Little Harriet Forster, described by her family as “the light of our lives”, was walking through rock pools with her mother when she was hit on the head.

The distraught mum cradled her injured daughter, while onlookers ran for help.

Harriet and her mother, who is in her 30s, had left the beach and climbed steps leading on to rocks at Seaton Garth beach in the seaside village of Staithes.

The youngster, from Oxford, was struck by the stone 30ft away from the steps.

Today, her family made an emotional statement, describing their "indescribable pain".

In the statement, released by North Yorkshire Police (NYP), they said: “We cannot comprehend the enormity of this tragedy.

"Harriet was the light of our lives.

“We ask that you give us time as a family to support each other through our indescribable pain. Thank you.”

The force also shared a photo of Harriet, showing her beaming at the camera with a pair of red sunglasses perched on her head.

An off-duty paramedic is said to have been first to arrive at the scene, north of Whitby, following the rock fall tragedy.

The Coastguard, the RNLI, an air ambulance, ambulance crews, firefighters and police also responded to the incident on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite desperate efforts to save Harriet, she sadly died at the scene.

Staithes harbour master and local councillor Norman Fowler, 71, also rushed to the family’s aid after being alerted by a witness at around 4.30pm.

Speaking yesterday, he said: “She was walking on the rocks with her mum and a stone hit her on the head. It was a freak accident. It was a one-in-a-million chance.”

It is believed Harriet and her family were visiting the village on a day trip. Her loved ones are now being comforted by specialist police officers.

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Mr Fowler, 71, called the emergency services and sat with the girl’s mum, who suffered scratches. He said: “I saw the lady cradling her in her arms.

“I sat with the mum. She was incoherent, crying. She was shaking and in shock.

“The cliffs just crumble occasionally. It wasn’t a landslide.

"It was just one piece of stone.

“It only has to be the size of a fist when it’s falling from that high on the cliff.”

Mr Fowler insisted that there are enough warning signs in the area about the dangers of rockfalls and said that the beach will reopen when police finish investigating.

The British Geological Survey has warned about a rise in the number of rockfalls due to the recent heatwave.

Dr Helen Reeves, of the BGS, said: “The unprecedented warm, dry weather is likely to be a contributing factor. Take notice of warning signs.

"Do not go directly under or on top of cliffs.”

In a statement this morning, NYP said: "Harriet was visiting Staithes with her family when the incident occurred near the south pier at Seaton Garth at around 4.47pm on Wednesday.

"Despite the efforts of the emergency services, including the Coastguard, the RNLI, ambulance, air ambulance, fire and rescue and the police, Harriet was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

"North Yorkshire Police is compiling a report about the circumstances of the death on behalf of the coroner."

Anyone with information that could assist enquiries is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 1, and speak to the Force Control Room. Please quote reference number 12180146823.

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