I was concerned about spending so many days on a tiny island in remote Cornwall … well, about getting on a few planes, too, but then the media informed me that I’m headed to the trendiest place for middle agers in all of extreme Europe. All the kids are doing it, and now so are the old farts — the old farts who have been drinking all night and forget what time the tide went out and dive head first into the drink while their sober neighbors prepare for work.
If the tombstone thrill wears off, we can try car surfing, to see how many cheers we can draw on the high street. Man, England is fun!
From The Times
June 18, 2007
By Patrick Foster
A man was killed and another injured yesterday in two episodes of “tombstoning”, in which thrill-seekers leap from cliffs into the sea.
Coastguards are preparing for further injuries as the summer months attract millions of holidaymakers to Britain’s seaside.
At least two people have previously been killed taking part in the extreme activity.
A man aged 46 died yesterday after leaping 30ft (9m) into the sea at Berry Head, Brixham, South Devon, at low tide at 1.30am.
The man, from nearby Torquay, had been drinking with friends at a disused limestone quarry before jumping from the top of a building.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said: “This was apparently some kind of stunt which the male had performed many times before.
“Ambulance service paramedics, coastguards, the Torbay lifeboat and police officers attended the scene. They worked vigorously on the male in a very dangerous location on the rocks near the water’s edge. Resuscitation was carried out but the male was pronounced dead at the scene.”
In Cornwall a man aged 29 was taken to hospital after being knocked unconscious when he jumped from a cliff into the sea. A spokesman for Falmouth coastguard said that the incident, at Trevaunance Cove, near St Agnes, happened at 6.49am. He said: “This is the second incidence of people jumping off cliffs into water – sometimes known as tombstoning – which coastguards in the South West have dealt with overnight.
“This incident could just as easily have resulted in a fatality. This man lost consciousness as he hit the water and became severely hypothermic.”
It is thought that the man had been drinking with friends throughout the night.
Tombstoning had until recently been seen as the preserve of West Country teenagers, but coastguards say that it has now been embraced by alcohol-fuelled adults seeking to emulate the younger jumpers.
Police and coastguards admit that, for those who know the terrain and tides, it can be kept within safe limits. But there is danger for those who want to push it farther – by jumping at night, for example – and for holidaymakers who are unaware of the rocks lurking beneath the waves.
James Instance, watch manager at Falmouth coastguard, said: “It isn’t just teenagers and children doing it. On Friday and Saturday nights there are adults jumping after they’ve had a few drinks.
“We can’t stop people. There is no legislation in place. There are so many harbours and cliffs that it’s impossible. If you know the area well, and the tides, then you may be able to do it safely. It’s been going on for years, but people come down here on holiday, they don’t realise how the tides work and they get hurt.”
In the past police have threatened jumpers with ASBOs, but the thousands of miles of cliffs would make an order almost impossible to enforce.
It is less than two weeks since Gus Courtney, 39, broke his neck and back in four places after diving from a 15ft wall into two feet of seawater.
The former lifeguard, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, was visiting family in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and now faces spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Gary Fildew, 23, a chef, died in an almost identical accident at Long Quarry Point, Torbay, in 2005. Later that year an 18-year-old man suffered head injuries and a 21-year-old Australian bodyboarder broke both legs while tombstoning near Porthleven, south Cornwall.