Soldier David Martin slipped and fell on reaching summit of Mont Blanc, inquest told (From The Argus)
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Soldier David Martin slipped and fell on reaching summit of Mont Blanc, inquest told
A soldier died when he slipped and fell after reaching the 15,780ft summit of Mont Blanc, an inquest has heard.
Off-duty David Martin, 30, had just started descending western Europe's highest peak on the Italian side with a friend when he fell.
A coroner said Mr Martin, a lieutenant in the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC), had "a life of immense promise cut short" by the incident on August 28 last year.
Friend and colleague Owen Larson was in front of Mr Martin on a popular route used by people of all climbing abilities and ages when he heard a bump and cursing from behind him.
Mr Larson told the inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates' Court: "I turned around and I saw Dave on his back sliding down.
"He wasn't sliding towards me, he was sliding down towards a very steep ridge on the Italian side.
"He wasn't sliding quickly and he wasn't accelerating quickly. He took a second or two to realise what was happening."
Mr Larson said he realised the degree of danger his friend was in and shouted at him to "dig in" by swinging his ice axe into the snow.
But despite his effort, Mr Martin's axe would not stick in, and a second attempt also failed, leaving him unable to arrest his slow slide off the edge.
"I stood there in shock for a second," Mr Larson said. "I ran to the point I last saw him. The ridge was so steep, and it went out of my view."
Rescue services were called and an Italian helicopter was scrambled to try to locate Exeter University engineering graduate Mr Martin.
The incident happened about half an hour after they started their descent down one of four routes during a five-day trip to Mont Blanc.
Adventurous Mr Martin, of Lower Willingdon, Eastbourne, was described by his parents in a statement as an "outdoors action man".
He was also a "loyal, generous and extrovert young man" who had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and turned down a chance to join the SAS course.
His parents' statement said: "He lived his 30 years to the full every single day and he was destined to rise eventually to a very senior rank in the RLC."
Mr Larson said a shoulder injury Mr Martin suffered during an Army exercise in the New Forest was not believed to have played a part in his fall, describing him as "fit" on the climb.
Altitude sickness was also ruled out, with Mr Larson saying that although Mr Martin had suffered it during his Mount Kilimanjaro climb, it was not a problem at Mont Blanc.
The inquest continues.
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