Balderstone student swept over cliff with three others in 'freak' fall
THE FINAL moments of a ‘brilliant’ and ‘intelligent’ student who lost his life in a mountaineering accident have been described by one of the only survivors.
Thomas Leyland, a friend of 24-year-old Christopher Bell, told an inquest how he lost sight of him shortly after the ground cracked beneath them on the Bidean nam Bian mountain in Glencoe.
Mr Leyland and PHD student Mr Bell, who grew up in Balderstone, were two of a party of six experienced walkers in Scotland for a short adventure break.
Tragedy struck on January 19 when shortly after starting their descent from the summit their snow-covered path cracked and the group were thrown onto their backs and pushed down the slope by drifts.
Whilst Mr Leyland was able to dig his ice pick into the ground the others were swept 1,000ft around an outcrop and over a cliff, the inquest heard.
Mr Bell, who had been studying ocean mapping at the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, was ruled by chief coroner Michael Singleton to have died an accidental death caused by multiple injuries as a result of the incident.
Tom Chesters, 28, Rachel Majumdar, 29, and Una Finnegan, 25 also lost their lives. Speaking at the inquest into Mr Bell’s death Mr Leyland said: “We had been planning the climb for weeks and had changed the route several times to minimise the risk of accidents.
“We had hired crampons to give us extra grip. Tom and Chris led the team and conducted avalanche checks throughout the ascent. When we reached the top the visibility declined so we reassessed our return route and chose one which seemed the easiest and safest.
“We started to zig zag down the mountain because it was too steep to go straight forward with Tom and then Chris leading the way.
“I was just about to turn a corner they had already taken when the ground cracked and we were pushed down the slope. When I got up I realised that I had lost sight of the others.
“When I passed the outcrop and still couldn’t see them I realised how serious it was.”
Mr Bell’s brother Edward, 22, said: “It was a freak tragedy. Chris was a brilliant brother and lived life to the full as he wanted.”
Mr Singleton said: “This is truly a tragedy almost beyond comprehension.”
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