Climber lost footing before plunging to his death from Fife cliff, inquest hears

Environmental scientist Sam Carr, 26, is thought to have lost his footing and fell whilst with in Aberdour, Fife.
Environmental scientist Sam Carr, 26, is thought to have lost his footing and fell whilst with in Aberdour, Fife.
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A British adventurer who plunged to his death from a cliff whilst on a climbing expedition in Fife has been ruled to have died accidentally at an inquest hearing lasting just ten minutes.

Environmental scientist Sam Carr, 26, is thought to have lost his footing and fell whilst with a friend at Hawkcraig Point in Aberdour, Fife. He suffered multiple injuries and died shortly afterwards.

At the time of the tragedy last July 18, there were calls for details of the incident to be made public after other climbers said they had to abandon their ascent of the same cliff after claiming they were ‘’pelted with bottles’’ just hours before Mr Carr’s death.

A report was later prepared for the Procurator Fiscal which found Mr Carr’s climbing equipment had no defects but his family said they are still unaware of what happened and had been unable to speak to the main unnamed witness.

At the hearing in Preston, Lancs, coroner Richard Taylor recorded a conclusion of accidental death without any witnesses being called or statements read out. There was no mention at the inquest of whether there was an investigation to any issues with the stability of the rockface.

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Mr Taylor said: “Sam was an expert climber and he was out climbing with a friend. It was a lovely day and his friend said that Sam tripped and lost his footing.

‘’He was pronounced dead at the scene and a post mortem taken in Scotland revealed he had died from multiple injuries.

“The family wanted to know if the climbing equipment was checked and Scottish Police re-assured that it was. The equipment was examined by the officer and no defects were found which could have contributed to his death. I will record a conclusion of accidental death.’’

The inquest was attended by Sam’s parents but they refused to comment after the hearing. His mother said: ‘’We still don’t know what happened- we’ve not been able to talk to the witness.’’

Sam who formerly worked for Anglian Water was born in Garstang near Preston but moved to Edinburgh.

A Justgiving page set up following his death said: ‘’Sam lived and worked in Edinburgh, and loved the opportunity it gave him to be outdoors. It was the perfect place for Sam, and he considered Scotland to be his adopted home.

‘’Sam died in a climbing accident, doing what he loved and what made him feel most alive. Sam always looked forward, and was forever planning for his next adventure, be it climbing rocks, hiking mountains or cycling miles and miles.’’

The area of the tragedy was sealed off at around 6.45pm on July 18, with police, fire, lifeboat and coastguard crews all scrambled to the area after news of the climber’s fall first emerged.

Prior to the incident climbers had reported on an online forum that Hawkcraig was “raining bottles”, with thousands having flocked to the area to make the most of the sunshine.

Reports said Police Scotland had no evidence to suggest that projectiles were being thrown but a spokesman said: “Police in Fife were called to the Hawkcraig area of Silver Sands Beach in Aberdour around 6.45pm on Tuesday July 18 following a report that a climber had fallen from the cliffs.

“Kinghorn RNLI recovered the man from the shoreline and the 26-year-old was sadly pronounced dead by the Scottish Ambulance Service. His family have now been informed and our thoughts are with his loved ones at this difficult time.

“Inquiries are ongoing and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

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Local councillor David Barrett, himself a climber, said at the time a full report should be made public to allow any safety concerns at the site to be addressed.

“It is very sad to hear of any death,” he said. “I hope that we get some detail so that lessons can be learned from this incident.

There could be issues with the stability of the rock, equipment failure or climber error.

“A lot of useful information can come out from an incident report but this is a very sad incident and my condolences go out to the climber’s family.”

Work colleague Robbie MacDonald posted a message on a tribute website to Sam saying: ‘’I just wanted to say how much I admired and respected Sam through all the time I worked with him.

‘’I was fortunate enough to help mentor Sam when he started at Anglian Water, and was deeply impressed by how quickly he made the transition into hydrogeology from ecology.

‘’He was one of the most talented, hard working people I knew and always quick with new ideas and to challenge the status quo. Far more than that he was always a pleasure to work with, even in difficult circumstances, and brought a great sense of humour to any challenging time - both in the field and back in the office.

‘Sam was generous beyond work and became a friend whilst we were in Cambridge. I will be ever grateful for him telling us about the Rinjani volcano trek in Lombok, and lending us the lonely planet guide which gave us both one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. I can imagine what a brilliant climber he must have been and budding adventurer.

‘’It is so sad we have lost a highly talented environmental scientist and engineer with so much potential. But I know he has touched the lives of a great many people and is a role model to anyone his age.’’

A fundraising campaign in Mr Carr’s name raised £8,800 in aid of the Scottish Mountain Rescue Service.