A two-year-old girl Rebecca drowned as her father Andrew Hopper of Kent, UK, was kissing his lover Paula Anderson on a seafront in February, an inquest was told on Thursday, reports The Mail, London.
The toddler died when her buggy plunged into the sea after her father let go of it to kiss his mistress. Andrew and Paula rushed into the water to save her, but by then it was too late. The girl was airlifted to a hospital where she succumbed to injuries. Her brother Lewis however survived in the buggy fall. He was strapped into the double buggy with her.
Andrew and Paula had fixed a secret rendezvous on a seafront walk at Warren Apron near Folkestone in Kent. As they kissed, a gust of wind blew the buggy away, the inquest was told.
Coroner Rachel Redman said police was considering charges of child neglect, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute Andrew Hopper, a father of three.
Andrew told the police: 'We kissed momentarily - I let go of the buggy and seconds into that kiss we heard a plop. It was like someone throwing a stone into the water. We broke from the kiss and thought "what was that?".'
'After a moment and the realisation we had no choice, we knew what we had to do. I took my coat off and jumped into the water without any thought for my own safety. She [Anderson] went for Rebecca, who was lying face down.'
Anderson, 38 and married, told the inquest: 'It was a horrible realisation that the buggy went over the edge. Andrew jumped in first and when I realised there was no way he could get the buggy and children out I jumped in as well. Andrew went for Lewis and I grabbed Rebecca. We struggled in the water. It was very cold - it was very deep as well. I tried to keep her above the water as best I could.'
Rebecca was airlifted to a specialist unit at a London hospital but was declared dead two hours later. Lewis, then eight months old, was taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford where he made a full recovery.
The children's mother, beautician Sarah Hopper, 35, had not known about her husband's affair before the tragedy. The couple have since separated.
Although Sarah did not attend the inquest, a statement from her was read out after the coroner recorded an accident verdict. The statement said: 'I am relieved the coroner has now come to a decision. Rebecca was my beautiful baby girl and her brothers and I miss her every second of every day. While today's decision will help us take the next step in our recovery, the accident which took my little girl's life could so easily have been avoided. Rebecca will never be forgotten and I intend to make sure my two boys will always know how important she was in our lives.'
Andrew Hopper, who works for BAE Systems in Rochester, is still in a relationship with Paula Anderson, who has separated from her husband.
Chris Taunton, Sarah Hopper's mother and Rebecca's grandmother, said after the inquest: 'Our daughter has times where her world is so deep with sorrow she doesn't know how to carry on but she has shown so much courage, strength, bravery and self-respect. It is beyond belief how she has managed to go on with her life and caring for her two little boys, Joseph and Lewis. We are very proud of her. 'Her life and ours will never be the same again but she has been an inspiration to us all as a family.'
It was like someone throwing a stone into the water. We broke from the kiss and thought "what was that?".'
Giving evidence at the inquest, he said: 'After a moment and the realisation we had no choice, we knew what we had to do. I took my coat off and jumped into the water without any thought for my own safety.