A mudslide that killed 10-year-old Darlington schoolgirl Leah Harrison was a "freak force of nature", rescuers have said.

Volunteers were facing "very poor" conditions whilst they attempted to rescue Darlington schoolgirl Leah Harrison, who was tragically killed in a mudslide whilst on a school trip yesterday (May 22).

Leah was a "bubbly" budding Lioness who had recently completed her SATS exams and was on the one-day trip with her fellow year six pupils using a "popular walk" route when disaster struck.

The Northern Echo: Leah Harrison.Leah Harrison. (Image: Terry Blackburn)

Dozens of emergency service workers rushed to the scene near Carlton Bank near the village of Carlton in Cleveland but faced difficult conditions.

Gary Clarke, callout officer for Cleveland Mountain Rescue, said in a statement: “It was very wet all day, quite foggy and misty up there and very cold and it made the conditions very hard going for the rescue.”

He said 19 rescuers initially turned out, increasing to 30 as the severity of the operation became apparent.

They used a “technical rope rescue system” to recover her from the dangerous landslip, Mr Clarke said.

He said the incident happened on a path off the Cleveland Way.

The Northern Echo: A general view of Carlton Bank near Carlton-in-Cleveland. A general view of Carlton Bank near Carlton-in-Cleveland. (Image: PA)

“As far as we are aware, they were part of a school party. Where exactly they started and where they were going, we’re not sure - we don’t get to see that side of things,” he said.

“We were acting on behalf of the police service.

“But there was just a school party out for a walk on the North York Moors which many schools do quite often, all year round.

“It’s really a matter for the police investigating now, we’re not exactly sure what happened, but from what we can gather what we saw in that scene, it was just something of a freak force of nature accident.

“It’s something that we’ve never seen or experienced before.”

Since the incident, it has also been confirmed that a full investigation is being launched by the council which operates Carlton Adventure Centre.

Denise McGuckin, Managing Director of Hartlepool Borough Council, which operates Carlton Adventure said: ‘"We can confirm that a tragic incident occurred during one of the Centre’s instructor-led outdoor education forest walks near Carlton-in-Cleveland yesterday.


"We are utterly devastated and heartbroken and our thoughts are with Leah’s family and friends and all those affected.

"We are working closely with our partner agencies to carry out a full investigation and we are temporarily suspending all outdoor activities and residential breaks managed by the council.

"Whilst the investigation is being carried out it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."