‘I was really scared that we were both going to die’ Dog walker rescued from Trimingham mud tomb describes her ordeal
A St Ives woman winched to safety by the coastguard service from a tomb of thick mud on a north Norfolk beach has spoken of her terror, relief and gratitude.
Primary school teacher Lorrayne Starr was due back at work on Monday, still a bit shaken, after her New Year’s Day ordeal on the north Norfolk cliffs at Trimingham, near Mundesley.
She and her partner have heaped praise on those who helped her, plan to buy one a replacement pair of boots, and have pledged to raise money for the coastguard service.
Ms Starr, 49, was rescued after getting trapped in wet clay when she went after her pet dog Olive, who had started heading down the cliff while the pair were on the coastal path.
She lay flat, sinking ever deeper in the ooze, yelling for help for more than an hour before another dog walker raised the alarm. In a race against time, it was a further hour before a winchman lowered from a coastguard helicopter was able to wrap a harness around her and lift her from the mud.
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“I keep telling myself how stupid I am,” she said. “I was very silly – didn’t think about the consequences when I went to get Olive.”
Ms Starr, a teacher at Over Primary School, was on holiday at a cottage in Trimingham, among a party of five including her partner, Philippa Hope.
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While Ms Hope was shopping in Cromer, Ms Starr took Olive for a walk, noticed the clifftop coastal erosion and decided to photograph it. “Olive was on a lead but I dropped it for a moment to take the picture, turned round and I couldn’t find her,” she recalled.
Spotting the five-year-old terrier heading down the cliff, Ms Starr followed, meaning to catch Olive and walk back along the beach with her. But about 30m down she stepped into the clay slurry and could not move.
“It looked quite solid but it was much, much deeper than I thought,” she said. “I kicked my shoes off but I was trapped.
“My phone was in my pocket but there was no service so I tucked it in my bra to keep it dry in case they could trace me through it.”
She placed Olive on her stomach, wrapped her in a scarf, and tried to raise the alarm.
“After a while I got sick of shouting ‘help’. For the first time in my life I was really scared that we were both going to die – it was horrible.
“After ages, a dog’s head appeared over the cliff and I told him to go and get help. When a man’s head appeared soon after, the relief was overwhelming.”
The local man, who has asked not to be identified, rang for help and stayed on the clifftop, talking to Ms Starr.
Coastguards from Happisburgh, Mundesley, Sheringham and Cromer were soon on the scene.
Two officers – Sam Baggaley and Christon Illife – went down to her on ropes from the clifftop but could not get near enough to free her, and the coastguard helicopter was summoned from Humberside, taking 40 minutes to arrive.
Mr Baggaley, who sank to his knees in mud, threw a rope with a bag attached to Ms Starr and, with great difficulty, she manhandled the reluctant Olive into it.
He was then able to carry the mud-caked dog back up the cliff but lost his boots, and new Christmas socks, in the mud. Firefighters hosed Olive down and she was reunited with Ms Hope.
Ms Starr said: “I was already cold but with Olive gone I realised how warm she had kept me. It was then that I began to get really cold – I was entombed.
“The chopper seemed to be hovering over me forever. It was the most wonderful thing to be put in the winch and landed on the field. I felt very safe and looked after.”
She was then taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for a check-up.
While there, Ms Starr said she had the “best shower of my life”. But, despite a further bath at the cottage, another shower at bedtime and another the following morning, she was still finding grit in her hair.
“The children at school are going to tell me off for not doing a risk assessment,” she said.
“When I was back on the field all I could do was say ‘thank you all so much, I’m so sorry and Happy New Year’ I’m definitely going to buy Sam another pair of boots”.
Ms Hope added: “We feel massive appreciation for the emergency services – they were fabulous, and to the man who found her. We will definitely be back in Norfolk to raise money for the coastguards.”