Hours leading up to cliff rescue remain a mystery

Police at the scene
Police at the scene

MYSTERY surrounds a dramatic cliff rescue from a ledge at Beachy Head.

Lifeboat crews and the coastguard helicopter were involved in the rescue on Sunday (February 27) after a man was heard crying for help half-way down the 500ft cliff.

The 32-year-old man, from Middlesex, was rescued by the helicopter at around 9.30am, but it is thought he had been on the ledge for several hours before lifeboat volunteers heard his shouts and saw him waving.

The alarm was raised earlier that morning after police and Dover Coastguard received reports that a Range Rover had left the road and turned over at Beachy Head on the slopes leading down to Cow Gap. No-one was in the severely damaged vehicle, which appeared to have rolled down the hill. The wheel of the car was also found halfway down the cliffs and other debris from the vehicle was left on the Downs.

Eastbourne’s RNLI crew undertook a shoreline search of the cliffs and heard ‘frantic’ cries for help to the west of the vehicle’s location.

Crew members saw a man, later found to be the driver of the overturned car, on the cliffs around 200ft up from the beach, opposite the Beachy Head Pub.

The lifeboat crew then directed the coastguards to the casualty.

Coastguard cliffman Tony Brinnand was lowered down the cliff to the casualty where he secured him and provided medical assistance.

The man was conscious with no obvious major injuries, but was very cold.

The coastguard helicopter was also called to the scene from its base at Lee-on-Solent and local coastguard cliff rescue teams were mobilised.

The casualty was winched from the cliffs into the helicopter and transferred to Eastbourne DGH.

He was discharged from Eastbourne DGH the following day (Monday).

Stuart McNab, Eastbourne coastguard officer, said, “While it is unclear exactly how the man ended up on the cliff some distance from the vehicle, the apparent extent of his injuries suggest that he may have climbed up the cliff to that position rather than have fallen in that location.”

However, a police spokesperson said officers believed the man had fallen from the cliffs.

Inspector Lee Lyons, divisional duty inspector for East Sussex, described it as “an extremely unusual incident”.