Inquest into Willingdon climber’s tragic Mont Blanc death

David Martin
David Martin

A former Willingdon school pupil fell thousands of feet to his death while climbing Mont Blanc after slipping and failing to get a grip in the snow, an inquest has heard.

The climbing companion of Eastbourne soldier David Martin, who plunged to his death while climbing Mont Blanc last year, has told of his horror as he watched his friend slide down a snowy ridge and fall over the side.

Captain Owen Larson said he shouted at 30-year-old David to use his ice axe and dig in to stop himself from falling.

But the former Willingdon pupil was unable to get a grip in the snow and fell thousands of feet to his death.

His body was recovered on the Italian side of the Alps by a mountain rescue helicopter and brought back to the UK where he was given a full military funeral at St Mary’s Church in Willingdon, close to the home of his parents Bernard and Rowena.

At an inquest on Thursday (January 30) his colleague and good friend Captain Larson said the duo had been at the summit of Mont Blanc on the morning of August 28 and had started their descent when the tragedy unfolded.

“We were coming down a 20 degree slope and I was in front of David,” said Captain Larson. “I heard a bump and then David cursing and I saw him on his back sliding down towards the steep drop steep ridge and not down the pathway towards me.

“I shouted at him to dig in with his ice axe and he swung it twice but it didn’t dig into the snow.

“He went straight off the edge and out of my sight.

“I stood there in shock.

“I will never know what exactly caused him to slip in the first place.

“I can only presume he tripped over on some loose snow or the crampons on his boots.”

The inquest heard Mr Martin, a Lieutenant in the Royal Logistics Corps attached to the Royal Marines, was a loyal, generous and outgoing young man who was always thinking of a new challenge and an “outdoors action man”.

East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said, “It was a tragic matter but at least as parents they have the comfort of knowing exactly what happened.”

The coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure.