A German couple saw a Trinity College Dublin (TCD) student take "lots of selfies" at the cliff edge moments before he fell to his death at the Cliffs of Moher in January.
At a coroner’s inquest in Ennis today, Clare County Coroner, Isobel O’Dea returned a verdict of accidental death for Indian national, Anand Goel, 26, at the beauty spot on the Friday afternoon of January 4 last.
Ms O’Dea said: “It is quite clear that Mr Goel was taking selfies in what proved to be a very dangerous place."
She said: “There has been no evidence that there was any intention by him to do self-harm and very much the evidence of all of the witnesses was that Mr Goel was taking selfies in the sunshine before he fell.”
A deposition from German tourist, Nadine Stoeckl said that Mr Goel “was taking selfies, lots of them” at the Cliff edge just after 3pm on the day.
Mr Goel had travelled from Dublin to the Cliffs earlier that day as part of a 'Paddywagon' tour.
Ms Stoeckl was with her boyfriend, Leo Voehringer on the Cliff walk leading to Hag's Head “and we were discussing how dangerous it was where he was sitting”.
Ms Stoeckl said: “He was sitting with his back to the sea and the sun was to the right of him and he was taking selfies straight at him facing the camera with the sea in the background.”
In his deposition, Mr Voehringer told the inquest that they were 15 metres away from Mr Goel.
Mr Voehringer said: “The guy was sitting at the edge of the cliffs taking selfies. He was on his own. There was no one around him."
He added: “The cliff edge was around him and he was on a part of the edge that was jutting out.
"We were standing there for around two or three minutes saying how crazy this is.”
Mr Voehringer said: “I told my girlfriend not to look at him anymore - we kept turning around to watch him.”
In her evidence, Ms Stoeckl said: “Myself and my boyfriend were chatting and then I looked around and I saw that the man who had been taking the selfies falling.
She said: “He was about two metres into his fall and his body was in a star shape with hands and legs out. He was falling backwards."
I thought I was seeing things. I turned back to my boyfriend and said ‘now, he fell down’ in German. Leo looked out and saw nothing and said ‘the man is gone’.
“I then heard a scream - I then heard a splash. I was in shock.”
Another tourist, Madeleine John from Victoria, Australia was further away - around 200 metres to 300 metres and told the inquest “I saw a man falling and I heard him screaming about one to two seconds later, I heard a large cracking sound”.
Ms John said: “I turned to two boys next to me -they said they didn’t see anyone but heard a scream and a loud crack and lady on my right heard a loud crack."
She stated: “I stood there for a couple of minutes in disbelief trying to figure out if it was real.”
Ms John walked for 15 to 20 minutes to the visitor centre to raise the alarm while three Irish people that met Ms Stoeckl and Ms Voehringer raised the alarm with the Irish coastguard after the couple told them what they had just seen.
An Irish Coastguard helicopter was up in the air on a training mission nearby and diverted to the Cliffs of Moher to carry out a daring operation to recover Mr Goel’s remains.
In his deposition, winch-man with the Irish Coastguard helicopter, Michael Sandover said that the helicopter detected the remains at the base of the Cliffs through heat signalling technology around 3km north of Hag's Head - the end point of the Cliffs.
This was after witnesses at the top of the Cliffs waved them to the scene.
Mr Sandover told the inquest that removing Mr Goel's body was "at the limit of our capability" but after the Doolin Unit of the Irish Coastguard said that they would be delayed in reaching the scene, Mr Sandover proceeded to winch Mr Goel’s remains from the scene as light was fading.
Mr Sandover said that from the scene he could tell that Mr Goel had died from catastrophic injuries and there was no sign of life.
A post-mortem concluded that Mr Goel had died from severe skull damage consistent with a fall from a height.
No members of Mr Goel's family were present today for the inquest and Ms O'Dea said that they will be notified of the findings of the inquest.