Woman, 23, plunges to her death from cliff after night time walk
A woman who was described as “precious” and “determined” died falling from a cliff in Cornwall after walking home with a man she had met on a night out, an inquest has heard. Megan Thornton, 23, had been enjoying a night out in the coastal town when she went to a seafront property with a man she had met that night before being told she could not stay because his 14 other family members were asleep in the centuries-old cottage.
She was said to have accepted this and left via the back door to go home, but tragically walked just a few steps before plummeting from the 25ft cliff to the rocks below in the pitch darkness.
An inquest heard the assistant marketing manager was unable to be saved despite courageous efforts from those in the cottage and paramedics at the scene. The coroner concluded that Ms Thornton’s death was a “tragic accident”.
Ms Thornton had been on the night out with friends in Bude, Cornwall, with friends in July 2022 when she met Charlie Pengilly and accompanied him back to the cottage overlooking Widemouth Bay where he was staying with family members. After staying a while, Mr Pengilly attempted to call her a taxi before she left via the back door.
The cottage was located just 30ft from the cliff edge, which was usually illuminated with solar lights, but these were not activated on the night of Ms Thornton’s death.
Cornwall’s Coroner’s Court in Truro was told there was no fencing to protect people from the cliff edge because coastal erosion rips the fencing down.
Ms Thornton took several steps, seemingly planning to walk home from the cottage, before falling off the cliff and landing on rocks on the beach below.
Mr Pengilly raised the alarm and house guest Alice Rogers, who is a GP practice nurse, ran down to the beach and gave unconscious Megan life support until paramedics arrived.
But sadly Ms Thornton died from her injuries a short while later. IT worker Mr Pengilly told the inquest the garden was “pitch black” on the night of the tragedy. He said: “She was a lovely girl. I was just trying to get her a cab home.” Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.
A post mortem examination concluded she died from head and neck injuries consistent with a fall from height.
She was 1.5 times the drink drive limit, but was a “fit and well” young woman.
Ms Thornton had graduated with a degree from Cardiff University and then a Masters degree at Exeter University in marketing.
She achieved such a high level of academic success that Exeter University Business School bestowed upon her a world-class scholarship.
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Her father Paul Thornton said: “She was very precious to us. We are very proud of her. She achieved so much in her short life. She was so single-minded, very determined, hard-working and very ambitious.”
He said the family did not blame anyone for the tragedy and were grateful to Ms Rogers for doing everything she could to help her on the beach.
The senior Cornwall coroner Andrew Cox said Ms Thornton was of a mind to walk back to her address at 2am and set off but fell over the cliff edge on to the rocks below. He also commended Ms Rogers as she tried to save Megan but said there was nothing she could do to avoid this outcome.
He recorded an accidental death conclusion, saying: “This was a tragic accident.”
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