Two experienced walkers have relived the moment their friend plunged to his death from the top of one of England’s highest mountains.
Father-of-two Alan Michael Burns, 39, who worked in Chorley, suddenly ‘vanished’ while walking in snowy conditions on Helvellyn in the Lake District.
Friends John Steven and Graham Strickland were enjoying an afternoon Christmas walk with Mr Burns, who lived in Bamber Bridge, when tragedy struck, an inquest heard.
The court, at Kendal County Hall, heard how Mr Burns had strayed a few feet away from his friends on the plateau of the 950m peak when he fell on Bank Holiday Monday December 27.
He plunged through a snow cornice and suffered severe head injuries, the court was told.
Mr Strickland told the court he saw Mr Burns go knee deep in snow and thought he was having ‘a joke’ but then he just vanished out of sight.
He said: “Visibility wasn’t good. It was hard to see where the sky ended and the mountain began.”
Both men told the court they knew instantly, due to past walks, that he must have gone over the edge.
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Steven, from Walton-le-Dale, said: “Alan unfortunately walked over the summit plateau edge in very poor visibility and fell into Brown Cove.
“It happened very quickly. Alan was a fine man and a good friend and we all miss him terribly.”
Police were called to England’s third highest peak at around 3.15pm and alerted the Patterdale Mountain Rescue team 15 minutes later.
Search and rescue dogs joined the search team of around 20 people as darkness closed in.
The team soon found a large avalanche on the side of Swirrel Edge, and made their way to the area where the avalanche appeared to have started.
They found Mr Burns with serious head injuries and hypothermia.
Mr Burns, who was employed by Chorley accountants Tenon and had previously worked for Leyland Trucks, had been a member of a mountain rescue team in Derbyshire and had lots of climbing experience.
Ian Smith, coroner for east and south Cumbria, said a pathologist had decided the cause of death was severe head injuries.
He recorded a verdict of accidental death and said it was not a case of the men going out ‘unprepared’.
Mr Burns’ wife Kerry, who was at their detached home in Brindle Close, said: “We miss him very much and we’re so sad he’s gone.
“We’re just glad the inquest is over so we can look forward now.”