The primary school teacher returned to work this morning after her terrifying ordeal on the cliffs at Trimingham, near Mundesley, north Norfolk
A terrified woman rescued from a tomb of thick clay with her pet dog admitted she feared she’d die as shocking pictures show her almost totally submerged in mud.
Lorrayne Starr, 49, spoke of her joy to be alive as stunning photos taken by the dog walker who raised the alarm highlight just how close she came to dying.
She also saluted the emergency services after she was winched to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter in the very tricky operation.
The two-hour life-and-death drama started when Ms Starr went after her beloved terrier Olive, who had scampered down a steep seaside cliff on New Year’s Day .
Lorrayne, of St Ives, Cambs, said: “For the first time in my life I was really scared that we were both going to die – it was horrible.”
Ms Starr was rescued after she got trapped in a pit of wet clay when she pursued Olive who had headed down the cliff off the coastal path.
She lay flat and sank deeper in the ooze while screaming desperately for help for more than an hour before the local passer-by spotted her on Friday morning.
It was a further hour before a winchman lowered from a Coastguard Bristow Sikorsky S-92 helicopter lifted her and Olive out of the clay.
Lorrayne said: “I keep telling myself how stupid I am. I was very silly.
“I didn’t think about the consequences when I went to get Olive.”
Lorrayne was on holiday at a cottage in Trimingham among a party of five, which included her partner, Philippa Hope, when she got into trouble.
She spotted the dramatic clifftop coastal erosion and decided to photograph it when Olive disappeared.
Lorrayne, a teacher based at Over Primary School near Huntingdon, said: “Olive was on a lead but I dropped it for a moment to take the picture, turned round and I couldn’t find her.”
She followed her five-year-old dog down the cliff but stepped into the clay slurry and got stuck about 35 yards down.
“It looked quite solid but it was much, much deeper than I thought,” said Ms Starr.
“I kicked my shoes off but I was trapped.
“My phone was in my pocket but there was no service so I tucked it in my bra to keep it dry in case they could trace me through it.”
She put Olive on her stomach, wrapped her in a scarf, and tried to raise the alarm.
“After a while I got sick of shouting ‘Help’.
“Philippa had told me to be very careful near the cliffs so I started screaming ‘Sorry, you were right.
“‘Please come and find me now’.
“After ages, a dog’s head appeared over the cliff and I told him to go and get help,” recalled Ms Starr.
“When a man’s head appeared soon after, the relief was overwhelming.”
The local man rang for help and stayed on the clifftop to comfort Lorrayne, who was frozen and becoming exhausted.
Coastguards from Happisburgh, Mundesley, Sheringham and Cromer dashed to the scene.
Sam Baggaley and Christon Illife fast-roped down to her but could not get near enough to free her.
They called out the Coastguard helicopter from Humberside Airport.
Mr Baggaley, who sank to his knees in mud, threw a rope with a bag attached to Ms Starr and manhandled reluctant Olive into it.
He carried the muddy dog back up the cliff but lost his boots, and new Christmas socks, in the mud.
Firefighters hosed Olive down and she was reunited with Ms Hope.
She’d been searching frantically for her partner for some time and was staying on the clifftop with the coastguard team.
Ms Starr said: “I was already cold but with Olive gone I realised how warm she had kept me.
“It was then that I began to get really cold – I was entombed.
“The chopper seemed to be hovering over me for ever.
“It was the most wonderful thing to be put in the winch and landed on the field.
“I felt very safe and looked after.”
She was wrapped in a blanket, put in a warm ambulance and rushed to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for a check-up.
Lorrayne said: “When I was back on the field all I could do was say ‘thank you all so much, I’m so sorry and Happy New Year’.
“I told them I’d definitely buy Sam another pair of boots.”
Ms Hope added: “We feel massive appreciation for the emergency services – they were fabulous – and to the man who found her.
“We will definitely be back to Norfolk to raise money for the Coastguards.”
The man who sounded the alarm said he and his two dogs heard her shouts as they walked the clifftop path.
“She had had the good sense to lie on her back on the liquid mud,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous.
“She was completely covered in mud.
“I could not see her dog at that time nestling on her lap.
“The dog too was covered in mud and blended in with her perfectly.
“I tried to keep her informed of progress until the troops arrived and then kept an eye on her until the rescuers got one of their men down to her.
“She was keeping as still as she could.
“Her dog was getting restless and she was sinking slowly into the mud which is why I kept an eye on her.”