A mother has described to an inquest the moment her five-year-old daughter was swept out to sea by a “freak wave” while walking at the Durdle Door beauty spot.
Rose Carter, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, was with her sister and her mother, Sofia Carter, at the Dorset beach on April 18 when the youngster was hit by the “8ft wave”.
The Coastguard was alerted and a military vessel helped rescue her, but she was pronounced dead at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.
Mrs Carter, who did not attend the Bournemouth hearing, said in a statement that the sea was rough but she did not think it was dangerous as they walked along the edge of the beach with Rose about 10ft behind her.
She said: “I saw a really big wave that went over her head and knocked her off her feet.”
Mrs Carter said a second wave then also knocked her into the water and she added: “When I stood up I could no longer see Rose.
“Rose was beyond the breaking waves and I was aware a lady called 999 and a military boat was there within minutes.
“A man with binoculars directed the boat to where Rose was. Rose was taken from the sea.”
She added: “Rose was a strong child and happy in the water and was able to swim with doggy paddle and had previously swam lengths.”
Witness Lucy Seviour described how she had been taking part in coastal climbing nearby when she was hit by the wave.
She said: “I saw Rose had been knocked flat by the waves and was being pulled in by the riptide and was half or three-quarters of the way down the beach and that was within a second.”
Ms Seviour, who used to do triathlons, said that she went into the water in an attempt to rescue Rose but was swept back to the beach by the waves that fractured one of her ribs.
She said: “I could see Rose for half a second and she was only half a metre away but I tried to move and was washed up on the beach.”
Ms Seviour said that she then tried to stop Mrs Carter from going into the water but added: “Obviously it’s her kid so she went straight back in.”
She said that Rose’s sister was “terrified”.
Another witness, Gordon Cobb, said he heard Mrs Carter screaming: “My daughter, my girl or my baby”, and added: “I could see a little girl’s head sticking out of the wave, physically there was no way she could have got through the wave.
“I had to watch her drift out to sea.”
Describing the wave as 8ft high, he added: “The sea was very dangerous that day and the wave that hit the girl was a freak wave and came out of the blue, and no other wave was like it before.”
Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Brendan Allen said the cause of death was drowning, and added: “Tragically Rose and her family were walking along the beach at the same time the freak wave crashed up the beach and washed Rose off her feet.
“It’s not something that could have been foreseen by anyone, it’s a tragedy that this has happened in these circumstances.”
Grandmother Jen Carter said: “From the evidence I think it was exactly that, a tragic accident.”