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Family tribute to schoolgirl killed in seaside rock fall

The nine-year-old who died in North Yorkshire has been named as Harriet Forster.

The bottom of the cliff face near the beach at Seaton Garth in Staithes
The bottom of the cliff face near the beach at Seaton Garth in Staithes Owen Humphreys/PA

The family of a nine-year-old girl who died when rocks fell from a cliff in a seaside village have described her as "the light of our lives".

Harriet Forster died following the accident in the picturesque village of Staithes on Wednesday afternoon, North Yorkshire Police said.

The force said she was visiting Staithes with her family from their home in Oxford.

In a statement, her family said: "We cannot comprehend the enormity of this tragedy.

"Harriet was the light of our lives.

"We ask that you give us time as a family to support each other through our indescribable pain. Thank you."

Officers said they are compiling a report about the circumstances of the death on behalf of the coroner.

The tragedy took place on Wednesday afternoon
The tragedy took place on Wednesday afternoon Owen Humphreys/PA

The accident has left the popular traditional fishing village in shock.

Harriet is thought to have been in an area popular with rock-poolers and fossil hunters just beyond the small town beach and the eastern harbour wall.

Locals have said the cliffs are notoriously unstable with small pieces of rock often falling down the 150ft face.

The accident happened around 100 metres (328ft) beyond a prominent red sign, screwed to the rock face, which warns of the dangers of the cliffs.

But people who live in Staithes said visitors are often not aware of the constantly crumbling nature of the shale rock, saying youngsters often hack at it with hammers, looking for fossils.

A prayer and floral tribute at the Mission Church of St Peter the Fisherman in Staithes
A prayer and floral tribute at the Mission Church of St Peter the Fisherman in Staithes Owen Humphreys/PA

Some local residents believe the recent weather had made the cliffs more unstable, especially with a long dry spell followed by heavy rain.

One woman described how she challenged a family picnicking right under the warning sign.

People in Staithes on Wednesday afternoon described how the beach and surrounding areas were "teeming" with people who scattered, leaving their belongings behind, as an air ambulance approached the harbour and landed on the beach.

Police tape near the beach at Seaton Garth
Police tape near the beach at Seaton Garth Owen Humphreys/PA

They also explained how the narrow cobbled streets of the village quickly became clogged with a large number of fire engines and other emergency vehicles.

St Peter's Church, in the centre of the village, was opened on Thursday for people who wanted to contemplate what happened.

Inside was a candle, a books of poems and a tribute which read: "Please remember in your prayers the young girl who died on Wednesday in a tragic accident.

"Remember also all her family and all affected by this incident."

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