Former South Yorkshire headteacher dies after falling from Lake District mountain

Striding Edge in the Lake District. Image by Gareth Sutton
Striding Edge in the Lake District. Image by Gareth Sutton
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A former South Yorkshire headteacher and experienced mountaineer fell 300ft to his death in the Lake District, an inquest heard.

Former Wingfield Academy headteacher Martin Harris, aged 75, of Mellow Fields Road in Laughton near Sheffield, fell and broke his neck while on a hike up Striding Edge ridge on Helvellyn.

Cumbria Coroner Robert Brown recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Harris was the fourth of five fell walkers to die on England’s third highest mountain this year.

His long-time walking companion, retired GP Eric Simpson, told the inquest in Kendal on Monday that he and Mr Harris had been rock-climbing and walking together for 33 years.

They regularly visited the Lake District from their homes in Laughton and the previous day had climbed another peak without difficulties.

The pair had been on Striding Edge for about half an hour with Dr Simpson, aged 60, stopping occasionally for Mr Harris to catch up.

“I was about ten minutes ahead of him and I waited but he didn’t come,” said Dr Simpson.

“I left my bag and walked back shouting. There was a group of people, with one on the phone and two scrambling down the steep mountain side.”

He then realised that his friend had fallen and carefully climbed down to him, but he was already dead.

Jonathan Bayes, one of the other walkers, said he saw a man who he had passed earlier stumble and fall sideways off the ridge.

Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, air ambulance and an RAF helicopter were involved in recovering Mr Harris’ body.

His body was taken to Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, where a post mortem examination was carried out.

The pathologist gave a cause of death as a broken neck. There were no other medical reasons for his death.

Mr Harris was said be on pain-killers for arthritis of the shoulders and neck, but was otherwise of robust good health.

Coroner Chapman said: “This was clearly a case of a fit man, albeit one of 75, having a pleasant trip out on a beautiful day. It is unclear what made him fall, but he stumbled and fell over the edge.”

Mr Harris, who leaves his widow Florence and two children, Duncan and Elizabeth, died on April 20.

His death led to calls for warning signs to be put up near the mountain.