Pavey Ark death inquests: Husband describes moment he saw wife, 37, plunge 100ft (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Pavey Ark death inquests: Husband describes moment he saw wife, 37, plunge 100ft
A HUSBAND told an inquest he would never forget the moment his wife looked into his eyes before she fell 100ft to her death from a Lake District cliff.
Keen fell walker Susannah Cox, 37, of Lancaster decided to walk up Pavey Ark with her husband, John, on June 20 while enjoying some time off work.
Mr Cox told the Kendal County Hall hearing that conditions were bright, sunny and dry underfoot as they walked from the Dungeon Ghyll Hotel up to Jack’s Rake in the Langdales.
But less than one fifth of the way up, tragedy struck.
Mr Cox said he went ahead of his wife as it was the first time she was attempting the rocky scramble.
After lifting himself onto a six by four foot ledge, he waited for his wife to reach the same point.
“I didn’t want to speed her up, I just waited for her,” said Mr Cox.
“She had to lift herself up like I did and get on the ledge.
“The next moment, I can still vividly see it now, the scream. She tried to lift herself up and must have, for some reason, lost her balance and went sideways.
“I just will never ever forget that scream. She was looking right into my eyes as she was doing it. And she just went.”
A post mortem concluded Mrs Cox, who worked in Lancaster City Council’s revenues department, died from multiple injuries.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, south and east Cumbria coroner Ian Smith said Mrs Cox ‘lost her balance with fatal consequences’ but stressed she was an experienced fell walker and properly kitted out.
“Her injuries were horrific and clearly not survivable,” said Mr Smith.
“She would have been unconscious very quickly indeed but, beyond that, she would have known very little, which is a small mercy.”
Five days before Mrs Cox’s death, father-of-two Howard Gladwyn, of Menston, near Ilkely, plunged 150ft to his death in the same area.
In a separate inquest on the 48-year-old IT professional, Mr Smith also recorded a verdict of accidental death.
A pathologist concluded he sustained head and chest injuries.
Friend Kevin Cotty, one of a group of five men who decided to ascend Jack’s Rake with Mr Gladwyn on June 15, told the hearing that despite a rain shower, visibility was good and the party was happy to continue.
Mr Cotty, of Wharfedale, said Mr Gladwyn was enjoying good views and regularly stopping to take photographs.
But some time into the walk Mr Gladwyn lost his balance and tumbled around 150ft from between two plateaus.
Summing up, Mr Smith said: “This was a group of men going for a walk up Pavey Ark. They knew where they were going, they weren’t making it up as they went along.
“They were adequately equipped. I’m very satisfied that Mr Gladwyn knew what he was doing.”
PC Paul Burke, who responded to both accidents as a Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue volunteer, said Mrs Cox and Mr Gladwyn were both clothed appropriately and well equipped.
But he added: “From the word go, Jack’s Rake doesn’t hold back, it’s quite a difficult scree. The start is quite hard and steep.
“Unfortunately, it’s a place where, if something goes wrong, it’s unforgiving and you don’t need much to go wrong on Jack’s Rake.”
Mr Smith said he would not be calling for warning signs to be introduced on the route as the potential dangers were ‘patently obvious’.
“This is a challenging walk – it doesn’t become a climb, it doesn’t require ropes but it’s almost as close as you can get to a rock climb without it being a rock climb.
“Anybody who faces this particular scramble knows what they’re going in to, they don’t need a sign saying: 'This is potentially dangerous’.
There have been four deaths on Pavey Ark in 20 years.