A FAMILY is mourning the loss of a little girl they described as 'the light of our lives', after she was killed by falling rock on holiday.

Nine-year-old Harriet Emily Nicola Forster, who police said is from Oxford, was visiting a beach in North Yorkshire with family when she was fatally struck by rock from a crumbling cliff.

The Oxford Times:

The Staithes rock fall site. Picture: Owen Humphreys/ PA

The tragedy happened on Wednesday afternoon in the seaside village of Staithes, 10 miles north of Whitby.

A statement released by her family today said: "We cannot comprehend the enormity of this tragedy. 

"Harriet was the light of our lives.

The Oxford Times:

The scene in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Photo: Barbara Govan/Twitter/PA Wire

"We ask that you give us time as a family to support each other through our indescribable pain."

Coastguard, RNLI, ambulance, air ambulance, fire and police crews scrambled to the beach just after 4.30pm, but Harriet was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Oxford Times:

A Staithes councillor quoted in the tabloid press said she had been walking on the rocks with her mum when a stone hit her on the head.

North Yorkshire Police announced Harriet's identity this morning and passed a file to the coroner ahead of an inquest, which is expected to be opened next week.

The 150ft-tall cliffs are made of shale, and residents on the coast said visitors were often unaware of the precarious nature of the stone. 

One added that youngsters sometimes even hack the shale with hammers, searching for fossils. 

Reports from the scene said Harriet was hit about 100m beyond a red sign, screwed to the rock face, which warns of the danger of the cliffs.

The Oxford Times:

Oxford Mail readers commented on Facebook expressing their heartfelt sympathy for Harriet's loved ones.

One wrote: "There are no words that will help, but thinking of this beautiful girl and all who loved her. 

"May you have the strength to face this together."

Another added: "Fly high beautiful Angel. Forever young."

One reader said she had met Harriet and her family several times, at The Ben Jonson in Weston-on-the-Green, near Bicester.

The pub staff member, who asked not to be named, described her as a 'beautiful, polite and happy' girl.

She said: "She was a very well behaved little girl, very polite and well-mannered, with a heart of gold and a cheeky side too. Her smile really did light up the room.

"I'm so upset for her family because she was their world - you could see that from the sidelines.

"She was a credit to her family and was very liked by everyone who met her."

A woman who has had a house in the village for more than 30 years said local people knew not to go too close to the cliffs as minor collapses were common.

But she added: "How do you tell everyone who comes? It's just not possible."

She said locals believed the recent weather had made the cliffs more unstable, especially with a long dry spell followed by heavy rain.

People in Staithes on Wednesday described how people on the busy beach scattered as an air ambulance landed, while narrow cobbled streets nearby became clogged with emergency vehicles. 

St Peter's Church, in the centre of the village, offered its building on Thursday for people who wanted to contemplate what happened.

Inside was a candle, a book of poems and a tribute which read: "Please remember in your prayers the young girl who died on Wednesday in a tragic accident.

"Remember also all her family and all affected by this incident."