Couple In IOW Car Cliff Plunge Named

18 August 2011, 09:26 | Updated: 19 August 2011, 17:37

An inquest's heard a couple who died on the Isle of Wight when their car drove off a 300 foot cliff were married but living apart.

53-year-old Paul Charles from Sandown and his 48-year-old wife Jaqueline from Ryde were killed on Wednesday night - their Renault Scenic was recovered by helicopter early on Friday morning (August 19th).

The Coastguard believes the car was travelling at over 30mph when it was seen to drive off the edge of Culver Down cliffs near Bembridge, just after 8pm on Wednesday 16th August, before crashing on to the beach below.

The bodies of the couple were thrown from the vehicle.

The speed at which the car was travelling meant it did not hit any of the cliff on its way down, according to Mike Forsyth-Caffrey, sector manager for Isle of Wight Coastguard.

He said: "Solent Coastguard received a 999 call from a person saying they had seen a car from the Culver Haven car park disappear over the fields and over the cliff.

"I think they would have been travelling in excess of 30mph at least.

"From a standing point in the car park they would have overcome the ditch and the barbed wire fence barrier before they have gone over.

"We think it was travelling at a fair lick because it hasn't hit anything from the cliff as it has fallen down.''

He added that the man was believed to be the driver as his body was found on the driver's side of the vehicle.

Emergency services were called at around 8pm and battled against the incoming tide to recover the pair from the car, Solent Coastguard said.

Teams of coastguard rescuers assisted by firefighters, ambulance crews, police and the coastguard helicopter were scrambled to the scene.

Police At Culver Down Cliffs

Anne Ricketts, 47, from nearby Sandown, was walking her dog along the beach around the time of the accident.

The social worker said she saw a tractor dragging a trailer containing four firefighters towards the beach at the time.

Just after 8pm, she said she saw a coastguard helicopter drop someone into the water before leaving, while 'truckloads' of rescuers from the coastguard were dropped off nearby.

Jayne Garner, from Totton, Southampton, who was staying in a nearby car park last night, said: "We were outside the caravan and saw the helicopter and watched it circling.

"We thought something was up because of the length of time they were taking."

Inspector Colin Hall, of Hampshire and Isle of Wight police, said:  "Our investigation is focused on the couple's behaviour shortly before the car went over the cliff.

"We must consider every possibility at this early stage but detectives are not looking for anyone else suspected of being responsible for the deaths.

"We're continuing to appeal for more witnesses who may have seen a couple in a blue Renault Scenic car in or near the top car park at Culver on Wednesday evening (August 17).

"Police would like to thank members of the public for their co-operation and help with our enquiries so far. We're also grateful to our emergency service colleagues for their expertise at the scene.''

The police spokesman confirmed that they did not believe there was any link between the incident and any other deaths or criminality.

But he would not be drawn further on the nature of the deaths saying the investigation was "still in its early stages".