Chepstow climber’s fatal fall was accidental - inquest

5:04pm Thursday 9th January 2014

AN EXPERIENCED Chepstow climber suffered fatal head injuries after slipping while scaling a cliff at a Forest of Dean beauty spot, an inquest heard.

Peter Riley, 53, fell after a rock was dislodged while he was climbing at Woodcroft Quarry, Wintour’s Leap, with his son, Joseph, on September 14 last year.

His helmet was smashed as Mr Riley, of Edmond Road, Sedbury, near Chepstow, uncontrollably collided with the cliff face, the inquest was told.

In a statement, Joseph said he was climbing with his father at around 4pm when loose material was dislodged.

His father fell and shouted ‘below’ to warn other climbers.

Mr Riley fell backwards to one side of his ropes and the back of his head struck the cliff face.

He was lowered to the ground and was unconscious with blood coming from his ears, nose and mouth.

Joseph said he removed his father’s helmet, which had been smashed and tried to resuscitate him. The emergency services were called and Mr Riley was pronounced dead at around 5pm, Joseph said.

In response to a question by Gloucestershire assistant coroner David Dooley, Joseph said there had been no failure of Mr Riley’s equipment.

PC Andrew Wilson, an experienced climber who attended the scene, said in a statement that the gap between the belaying point and the climber was larger than it might have been, meaning his fall and impact were greater.

The inquest was told that Mr Riley was a generally fit man who had suffered a head injury during a climbing accident when he was 19, but this had no relevance to the outcome of this incident.

A post mortem examination by pathologist Professor Neil Shepherd revealed no evidence of a heart attack or any other illness before the fall. Prof Shepherd said Mr Riley died of serious head injuries.

Mr Dooley said Mr Riley was an "enthusiastic, regular and avid climber" who was climbing with his son when a rock was dislodged.

"He had the presence of mind, at that point, to shout out a warning to those below as one would expect of an experienced climber.Unfortunately, while there was no failure of his gear, he fell to one side of his rope, causing him to swing around and hit the back of his head on the rockface.

"The view was that the impact velocity was, perhaps, increased by the fact that a gap between himand the belaying point was a little more than it should have been. He appears to have fallen further than he should."

The resulting injuries were unsurvivable, Mr Dooley said.

Mr Riley’s death was the unintended consequence of a deliberate act to go climbing and the appropriate conclusion was an accidental death, the coroner said.

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