Ladram Bay ‘tombstoning’ sparks safety fears

A lethal craze which has left dozens of people killed or paralyzed has come to Ladram Bay, causing alarm for beachgoers.

Three young men were seen climbing to the top of the bay’s landmark Big Rock, before hurling themselves into the sea - a drop of around 60 feet.

Their reckless plunge appeared to be an example of tombstoning – a craze where people throw themselves into sometimes shallow water off cliffs, rocks and piers.

The practice is thought to have killed at least 14 people in the UK over the past four years and left another 40 seriously injured or paralysed.

One witness to the jumpers at Ladram Bay was Ian Dowell, chairman of an Exmouth walking group that had stopped in the bay for a drink.

Mr Dowell, who lives in the marina area of Exmouth, said: “People were concerned about the youths’ safety. They were climbing up the side of the rock and plunging off the top without appearing to have a clear view of the water or any boating traffic below.

“It was a scary moment – one lady visitor said she felt funny in her stomach, and another said she couldn’t watch.

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“I regularly visited Ladram as a boy and sometimes saw people jumping off the lower ledges, but never from this height. There is quite a lot of rock just below the water on one side and, if the youngsters were unaware of this, there could have been a nasty outcome.”

Andy Philips, East Devon District Council’s beach safety officer, said: “Tombstoning is a very dangerous activity. Anyone who jumps from a height into water is taking a risk, especially if they are unsure of the depth of water.

“Jumpers can sustain head injuries, break limbs or injure their spine.

“This can result in permanent paralysis or death.

“Someone injured by a fall into water could also drown before help arrives.”

Ladram Bay is a private beach owned by Ladram Bay Holiday Park, which says that it has taken steps to deter tombstoners.

A spokesperson said: “We have put up signage at the beach, telling people not to go tombstoning. It’s something that we are very much against.”