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Body Found in Looe Flats

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12:51pm 28th March 2013
(Updated 12:51pm 28th March 2013)

Pirate FM has learnt how the neighbour of a pensioner who died after a landslide in Looe was forced to scramble over rubble to escape.

Dwayne Bown who lived in the same block of flats as Susan Norman says he thought she was still on holiday.

The 68 year old's body was found after torrential rain triggered a deluge.

Dwayne walked away with just the clothes on his back: "I had to bust the door open that was actually stuck. The water was coming in from the hallway and then after that, I had to literally climb over rubble, well mud, at the back to actually get out of the property.

"It was still coming down outside as I got out and when I went to knock for Peter, it was still crumbling down at the back. There were still bits of wood and timber falling off.

"I came back from the doctors having been prescribed sleeping pills because I've only had, altogether, about four hours sleep since it happened. Being on my own triggers off stuff. I can't stop crying, can't stop shaking and I'm very traumatised at the moment."

The Health and Safety Executive has launched an investigation.

It has been confirmed that the body of a woman found in a collapsed flat on Sandplace Road on Friday was Susan Norman.

Devon and Cornwall Police have released this statement: "Police can now confirm the identity of the person killed during the landslip incident in Looe, Cornwall on Friday morning as Susan Margaret Norman, a 68 year old local female.
"Her Majesty's Coroner has been informed of the incident.
"The investigation into Susan's death is being managed jointly between Devon and Cornwall Police and the Health and Safety Executive.
"Work is currently on-going to make the site safe, in order to allow further specialist examinations to take place during the course of the week."

There are claims Susan had warned authorities her home could be at risk in bad weather. In a statement her family said:

"As you imagine the mood is rather numbing for Susan's family and friends at this sad time. We will get to the bottom of this potentially avoidable tragedy.

"The property's safety has been a concern of Susan's for some time as there have been two recent slips very close to house. The wall directly behind the house has been showing signs of stress after the recent adverse weather conditions and flow of water from St Martin's Hill

"Contractors were working on the property to support the retaining wall. This work was taking place while Susan was away visiting family. We also understand that other residents have voiced their concerns about the safety of the area prior to this tragedy.

"Any information regarding this would be gratefully accepted. We have been assisting various agencies with their inquiries and thank them for all their hard work. We would also like to thank the people of Looe and all the emergency services for all their hard work.

"The family wish to be left alone at this time to grieve."

The 68 year old, who lived on the ground floor, had arrived home from holiday the night before.

Pete Temlett who lives three doors away was one of the first on the scene and said he felt powerless: "You can only act at the time on what you see. If I could have gone in there to rescue this lady, who I presume was in the house, I would have done. But it was impossible. The windows were popping, the walls were moving and I knew if I touched anything the whole lot would just collapse on me if I went inside."

Emergency workers are being praised for their painstaking search.

Dave King from Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service said: "There is certainly a sombre atmosphere on the incident ground. We would like to bring better news to the families and we always hope that we can do that. Unfortunately that has not been the case on today."

Local councillor Edwina Hannaford watched things unfold: "They had thermal imaging but they couldn't see anything and they sent a dog in. But I think they had to get specialist units in from Devon.

"The force of the debris and the soil that came down actually pushed the bungalow sideways and blew out the front of it. It was completely unstable."

15 neighbours were evacuated and the Looe Branch Line and St Martin's Road shut, amid fears the ground could have slipped again.

In a statement Cornwall Council said: "This is a very tragic incident and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the person who has lost their life. The Council is working with the emergency services and the Health and Safety Executive to carry out a thorough investigation into the cause of the landslip."

12:51pm 28th March 2013

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